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Moratorium now in place, as board awaits paperwork for 48 known STR locations
√ Download the policies (below)
By Joshua Maloni
Owners of short-term rental properties in the Village of Lewiston’s residential districts will now be subject to a code of conduct, as trustees voted Tuesday to add a new local law governing non-owner-occupied sites.
The board adopted Local Law No. 1-2023, which outlines rental standards; special permit requirements; license and application; renewal and fees; occupancy; and owner/tenant responsibilities.
The new law’s opening statement reads, “The purpose of this Code is to regulate the Short-Term Rental of dwelling units within the Village of Lewiston, NY and to establish comprehensive registration and licensing regulations to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare by regulating and controlling the use, occupancy, oversight and maintenance of Short-Term Rental properties. The Village seeks to thoroughly monitor and regulate those who offer their homes as Short-Term Rental properties in order to minimize any potential detrimental impact this commercial enterprise may have upon the residential character of predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods.”
Click HERE to download the short-term rental policy (PDF).
Mayor Anne Welch said the new law is the result of an influx of short-term rental (STR) properties. Some blocks – even within the historic district – now have multiple STRs.
“We don’t want to destroy our neighborhoods,” Welch said. “We want to allow them (STRs), because it’s a good thing for the village. But we also need to get a handle on it so that it just doesn't overrun all our neighborhoods.”
Owners of each of the 48 known STR properties – including those now under construction – will receive a certified letter stating they have 60 days to complete the rental application, checklist, and emergency evacuation route. The documents should be sent to the village clerk’s office at 145 N. Fourth St.
Welch said existing STRs won’t have to cease functioning, but “everyone has to register and go through these regulations, even if they are currently operating.”
She later added, “If (an existing STR operator says), ‘Oh, we’re just going to keep doing it the way we’ve been doing it, and we’re not going to go in and do the regulations and the fees associated …’ – if we find out that you’ve been operating and you are not registered with the village, you will be shut down. And if you don’t cease immediately, you will be fined.”
Deputy Mayor Vic Eydt said, “Everybody’s starting from scratch,” as far as the municipality is concerned.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, trustees voted to cap the number of STR properties at 50, and to enact both a fee schedule and a temporary moratorium on future short-term rentals.
Realtor and STR owner Tom Deal suggested the new law was rushed, and that the board should take more time to review resident remarks.
“We need to work together to come up with rules and regulations that are fair to everyone involved,” he said. “I’m not sure why we need to overregulate something because there may be one or two bad actors.”
Trustee Nick Conde said, “The longer this goes on, the more (STR applicants) we get.”
Welch acknowledged the new law isn't perfect, and that it could be tweaked during the moratorium or at a later date.
“If there’s revisions to be made, they’ll be made,” she said.
Board members voted to approve the following annual fee schedule for STR properties:
√ Application fee for bed and breakfast, $50
√ Application fee for short-term rental, $50
√ Annual fee for short-term rental, $500
√ Building inspection fee for short-term rental, $250
√ Fire inspection fee for short-term rental, $250
A handful of residents balked at these prices.
Deal said he has had Niagara County provide similar approvals for a grand total of $200.
Resident and STR owner Gretchen Broderick called the fee schedule “punitive” and “counterintuitive.”
Former Deputy Mayor Claudia Marasco said a sliding scale could be implemented for village residents, but Clerk Shannon Fundis said such action would constitute discrimination.
Trustee Tina Coppins said the fees are reflective of the additional village services required to ensure STRs are safe and code-compliant.
Penalties for Misconduct, Neglect
The STR application requires owners to identify a contact who can be notified if anything untoward is taking place at the rental site.
There was some debate as to who should be called in these situations – the owner, the village, the Lewiston Police Department – particularly after hours. Conversation suggested noise complaints would be sent to the LPD, while maintenance matters such as garbage placement or landscaping would be taken up with the landlords.
Welch said owners “don’t want to be in violation, because there’s fines.”
Coppins added, “They can lose their license.”
Eydt noted, “They have to renew each year. It’s not in perpetuity. They have to go through this procedure every year. If there is violations, if there’s a problem, we pull their license next year. They don’t get the chance to do it again.”
With the new law in place, board members said the next course of action is to review and approve the existing STRs.
The motion to pass a moratorium reads, in part,
“WHEREAS, tourism is an important part of the local economy, including short-term rentals at hotels, and increasingly, in residential neighborhoods; and
“WHEREAS, in recent years, the density and frequency of rentals of less than 30 days, or short-term rentals, in residential neighborhoods has increased, due in large part to the web-based marketing tools such as Airbnb, Vacation Rental by Owner, and the like; and
“WHEREAS, the increase in transient occupancy has had an adverse impact on residential neighborhoods subsequently generating excess noise, traffic and trash; and
“WHEREAS the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees is in the process of studying the issue in order to make recommendations on the best approach for the Village, including conducting work session(s), other studies, and proposing an ordinance regarding the regulation of short-term rentals.
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Lewiston, that in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare, it is in the best interest of the Village to declare a temporary moratorium on issuing business licenses on short-term rentals.
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees, that beginning with the effective date of this Ordinance, no new short-term rental licenses shall be approved or issued through April 17, 2023, three months from the date of this ordinance.”
Click HERE to download the moratorium details.
Fundis said, “Since we announced at the last meeting that, ‘We have a list, this is what we’re working with,’ we’ve had seven to 10 phone calls. ‘Well, I want one. Well, I bought a house to renovate to make one.’ If we don’t create a law and start limiting, it is going to escalate.”
As of now, there is no waiting list for future STR applicants.
Lewiston residents speak with the Village Board about new short-term rental policies.
Changes to Village Law
Trustees scheduled a public hearing for Monday, Feb. 6, to vote on modifying the municipal code to make relevant changes in keeping with the new STR law.
Among the items to be considered for revision:
•Local law #2-2023 to amend Section 7. Definitions of Appendix B of the Village Code to read: #84 delete Tourist Home; add Short Term Rental: a dwelling in which overnight accommodations are provided or offered for transient guests for compensation.
•Local Law #3-2023 to amend Section 11.5. Appendix B of the Village Code to read: Short Term Rental – also referred to Vacation Rental and or Transient Rental, is a non-occupied dwelling unit consisting of a single family residential structure or a dwelling unit in a two-family structure (duplex) that is rented as a whole unit and under a single family booking for a period of less than thirty (30) days.
•Local Law #4-2023 to amend Section 9.B.3.f. to read: Bed & Breakfast residences/Short Term rentals
•Local Law #5-2023 to amend Section 9.C.3.b to read: Short Term Rental
•Local Law #6-2023 to amend Section 9D.3.j. Bed & Breakfast residences/Short Term Rental (delete Tourist Home)
•Local Law #7-2023 to amend Section 9.I.b.4 to read: Bed & Breakfast residences
•Local Law #8-2023 to amend Section J. 3.f.to read: Bed & Breakfast /Short Term Rental establishments when such use is secondary use of the premises.
•Local Law #9-2023 to amend Section 1-7 General penalty; continuing violations to read:
(a) Whenever in this Code or in any ordinance, resolution or local law of the Village any act is prohibited or is made or declared to be unlawful or an offense, or whenever in such Code, ordinance, resolution or local law the doing of any act is declared to be unlawful, where no specific fine or penalty is provided therefor, the violation of any provisions of this Code or any such ordinance, resolution or local law, shall constitute an offense and shall be punished by a fine up to $1000 per day as determined by the Zoning Officer. Each day any violation of any provision of this Code of any such ordinance, resolution or local law shall constitute a separate offense.
The Village Board will meet at 6 p.m. inside the Red Brick Municipal Building at 145 N. Fourth St.
Trustees voted to increase the Lewiston Landing boat slip fees by $300 for the 2023 season, noting there hasn’t been a rate change since before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
In that time, “millions of dollars” worth of renovations have taken place, Welch said, including a new walkway and installation of floating docks.
Residents will pay $1,500, while non-residents will be charged $1,800.
The board voted to approve the following motions:
√ A request made by Coulter Farms to host a farm stand daily from 8 a.m. to dusk from late spring through the fall season (possibly into winter) at the Lewiston Landing area adjacent to the fish-cleaning station. This swatch of grass abutting Center Street is the only area trustees are making available for such an operation on Water Street. The proprietors will complete a facility use permit and pay the village $25 for each day they sell goods.
√ Development plans as proposed for 869 Cayuga St. (Syros Restaurant), which could include the addition of three apartments and up to three retail units.
√ The appointment of Joshua Janese as an alternate member to the Planning Commission.