Objection to the draft local law titled “Operating Permits for Short Term Rental Units.”

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We respectfully submit this petition in objection to several of the provisions in the draft local law titled “Operating Permits for Short Term Rental Units.”

Background

According to data provided by Airbnb, there are over 850 private property owners in Ithaca sharing their homes with visitors through the Airbnb platform alone. These hosts provide temporary accommodations to an estimated 33,000 guest nights in Ithaca annually.

The Committee tasked with considering legislation to regulate short term rentals in the Town of Ithaca has provided limited evidence of public concern regarding these visits (signatures of 16 Town residents regarding a single property and one written letter of concern from one Lansing property manager). In discussions with the Town, it is our understanding that there have been few, if any, other recorded complaints specific to short term rentals in the Town of Ithaca. While any negative impact on neighbors or their properties is right to be considered thoughtfully, using this data as a benchmark, it suggests that the incidence of neighbor complaints is an occurrence in fewer than 5/100 of 1% of guest visits.

By contrast, these same property owners are offering a unique service to visitors to our community; a service that there is clear evidence these guests prefer over other lodging options.

It is also our experience that property owners who frequently offer short term rentals take better care of their property as the property is being cleaned (and repaired as needed) between every guest visit. Further, unkempt property receives negative reviews and no longer attracts future guests.

Proposed Regulations

The language in the draft legislation proposes the implementation of several significant requirements of property owners who are not on their premises during the visits of their guests. We see these requirements as excessive and unnecessary.

Specifically,

1.    We see no correlation between the number of nights of un-hosted visits and the incidence of neighborhood complaints and believe the 29-day limit is arbitrary and needlessly punitive to property owners who are providing responsible lodging to over 33,000 visitors annually. IF there is reason to cap the number of un-hosted nights, we would propose a limit of 120 nights per year allowing for those who live here during the academic year to offer accommodations during the summer break benefiting the local economy and maintaining the use and care of their property during their absence.

2.    Limiting occupancy to 2 persons per bedroom does not accommodate properties that offer non-bedroom sleeping options, such as studio apartments with futon or fold-out beds, property owners offering glamping or other alternative lodging experiences (boats, trailers, tree houses, etc), or couples with small children who either bring sleeping accommodations or allow their infant children to share their bed. Many of the visit occasions to our community involve families visiting their student child who may wish to spend the night with them in their rental space.

3.    Posting of Town Regulations in each sleeping space in an USTR exceeds any regulations required of long-term rental property owners or other short-term lodging providers. Further, guests and hosts making arrangements through short term rental platforms are both vetted thoroughly and reviewed publicly, allowing for significant pre-screening of potential visitors and hosts. Guests agree to abide by house rules which often are stricter than Town ordinances. Since all short-term rental platforms already require guests to make visit arrangements directly with the property owner, guests and owners have several means to maintain contact during the visit (phone, text, email) without posting this information;

4.    Requiring property owners to keep a written log of every guest visit and/or to inform the Code Enforcement Officer of each planned guest visit in advance of arrival is again a significant burden to hosts/property owners. All such rentals are already recorded by the hosting platforms and property owners rely on these logs to maintain their accounting records for payment of room taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes.

5.    Operating permit required. Again, with many hosts offering individual rooms or alternative lodging accommodations, we see the requirement of operating permits for rentals that are not otherwise already subject to the Town’s Rental registry regulations as unnecessary and potentially unenforceable.

6.    The exclusion of Agricultural, Conservation and Lakefront Zones from applicability is appropriate. We do believe that these exclusions should extend at a minimum to Low Density Residential if the concern begin addressed is primarily one of on-site parking although this concern is already addressed under the proposed parking regulations.

7.    Noise concerns should be addressed through the existing noise ordinance (Chapter 184 of the Town of Ithaca Zoning Ordinance) that offers a mechanism for neighbors to register their concerns and have them addressed by property owners. We believe parking concerns can be likewise addressed on a property-specific basis using existing provisions of Town law.



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