Proposal to limit rental homes faces some opposition

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A view of the Peconic Bay waterfront in Jamesport.

A proposal to limit home rentals in Riverhead Town for less than 30 days ran into some opposition at a public hearing Tuesday.

Some speakers said the limit will hurt the local economy, but town officials said that by renting homes in residential neighborhoods, homeowners are in effect operating a commercial venture while avoiding the state and county taxes that hotels and motels must pay. The legislation is also designed to prevent homes from becoming party houses on weekends.

“My biggest concern with the restrictions is the economic impact it will have on the North Fork,” said Simon Kahn, who said he has a house in Northville but doesn’t rent it.

Mr. Kahn said Long Island wineries attract more than a million people annually and many of the visitors to the North Fork  cannot procure short-term rentals, Mr. Kahn said.

“Many simply will not come, and that will have a far reaching economic impact,” he said.

Andrew Barrett of Aquebogue said short-term rentals create a homelike atmosphere for families.

“By staying in a house versus a hotel, these guests are able to be in a communal environment where they are not segregated into separate hotel rooms and can only gather in public places,” he said.

There are more than 8,000 such homes in New York and more than 300 on the North Fork, he said. President Barack Obama even stayed at a privately owned vacation home for a week on Martha’s Vineyard, and former President Clinton rented a home on the South Fork for two weeks, he said.

“They chose not to stay in hotels for the reasons I mentioned,” Mr. Barrett said.

Supervisor Sean Walter said President Clinton was in violation of Southampton’s regulations, since the proposal Riverhead is putting forward was taken from Southampton Town’s code.

“The issue for me is I wouldn’t want it next to me,” Mr. Walter told Mr. Barrett, who rents a home. “I’m choosing not to live next door to a commercial establishment. You’re a commercial establishment.”

The proposal defines transient as a rental period of 29 days or less and makes transient rentals of homes illegal.

Legally operating hotels, motels or bed and breakfasts are exempt from the proposed regulation.

The town proposed the regulations after hearing complaints from Aquebogue resident Ron Hariri, who said a home near him is constantly rented to multiple groups of people for one-night stays. He said there are issues with noise and security resulting from the house.

Amy Csorny of Wading River was the only speaker to support the proposal at Tuesday’s hearing. She said there are three rental houses on her block and they often leave their garbage out on Sunday night before heading back home. By Monday, animals throw the garbage all over the street before it can be picked up, she said.

Joe Stella of Aquebogue, who rents his house there, said the restriction should be on the number of people that can rent a home and not the number of days.

Mr. Walter said homeowners who do short-term rentals are essentially running a commercial business in a residential zone and questioned if they could even stay in business if they had to be pay the state and county hotel tax, as commercial establishments do.

Bruce Gephard, who rents a home in Aquebogue, said they’re addressing the wrong issue.

“This is not Hampton Bays,” he said. “Nobody is renting these houses to come here to party. Where would they party? There’s nowhere to party.”

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