By Timothy Chipp
Town of Niagara officials on Tuesday took aim at short-term rental property owners by calling a public hearing for next month regarding proposed strict limitations.
The hearing, set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, concerns a proposed local law regulating rental properties one would find on websites like AirBnB.com and VRBO.com.
If approved following the public hearing, the law would restrict zoning for these short-term rentals, as well as place a minimum rental period length on contracts for these facilities.
“We have available short-term rentals in our hotels,” Town Attorney Michael Risman said while discussing the proposed law at the town’s work session on Nov. 2. “This helps out our local businesses.”
The websites have risen in popularity in the past few years as alternatives to those very hotels. Private home and apartment owners essentially rent out their space for vacationers or other renters to use as they see fit.
But, if the law is adopted, the rental properties that will be allowed will not be permitted to rent fewer than 30 consecutive days, much shorter than the average rental through those popular websites.
It also would end short-term rentals in five zones across the town, including all residential ones. Properties of this type in commercial zones, which include hotels, would be permitted under the new law.
Earlier this month, Supervisor Lee Wallace said the biggest issue driving the new law’s creation and implementation is the quality of life for Niagara residents.
“One house I know of has fishing charters going out of it,” he said. “They’re leaving at 3 a.m., making a lot of noise.”
Risman said the new law would likely take effect a year after it’s passed, though the timeframe could change upon approval.
After the town’s Planning Board tabled a discussion earlier this month about an expansion of the Covanta transfer facility on Quarry Road, the Town Board followed suit and is expected to continue discussions at the December meeting.
According to the agenda Tuesday, the expansion requires rezoning, special use permits and a site plan approval from the town.
The New Jersey-based company seeks to ship an additional 150 tons of trash per day, likely increasing daily truck traffic to and from the site.
To accomplish this expansion, the town is considering rezoning the light industrial property to heavy industrial. It’s unclear if the action is necessary, though, as the facility has been operating as a heavy industrial waste transfer station for years after it was grandfathered in due to zoning code changes.
Such unknowns have one town councilman raising his voice to express disinterest in the change, but not necessarily the project as a whole.
Councilman Richard Sirianni earlier this month said his main concern with the rezoning is that it could hamstring the town if handled poorly when decision time arrives. He said he’s looking to the future, should something happen and Covanta leave for any reason.
“If that property gets zoned heavy industrial, we don’t know what could come down the road,” he said. “We have to be careful.”
Sirianni said he’s looking to meet with local Covanta leadership while the plans are worked through so he can get a better understanding of the plant’s procedures and how the expanded facility will operate.
Next month’s regular meeting was changed due to the Christmas holiday. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, featuring the short-term rental property law public hearing.
It’s one week earlier than normal, as Wallace said the town typically doesn’t have its December meeting in the third week due to the holiday.
The Town Board’s work session in December will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Both meetings take place at Niagara Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road.