Settlement between town and short-term rental owners falls through

Riverhead Town had proposed a settlement in the lawsuits it filed against several Wading River property owners who leased out their land for illegal short-term rentals, but that proposed settlement has been withdrawn, officials said.

The settlement would have allowed some short-term rentals to continue to operate through a pilot program if those homeowners agreed to pay fines totaling $100,000 for previous violations.

Short-term rental supporters attended last Wednesday’s Town Board meeting and explained why they disagree with the town’s 2013 decision to ban rentals of 29 nights or less.

“The short-term rental has such a benefit for us and support the local economy as well,” said Creek Road homeowner Nicole Enghauser. “Many small mom and pop shops in Wading River rely on short-term rentals to help them thrive in the summer and make ends meet through the winter. Removing short-term rentals would destroy their business.”

She said most people can’t afford to take a vacation that lasts more than a month.

Virginia Grieco, who owns and manages rental properties on Creek Road, said police have gone door-to-door with flashlights inspecting the properties and some neighbors who oppose the rentals have harassed her residents.

She added many renters will have to cancel their visits now.

“Why was this settlement offered to us if we couldn’t do it?” she asked. “This whole thing is a bad faith thing you put us through.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said after the meeting that his main opposition to short-term rentals is that “people never know who their next-door neighbor is from one week to the next.”

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Photo: Virginia Grieco at Wednesday’s meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)