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Lewiston Town Board receives input on short-term rentals

Fri, Dec 1st 2023 10:30 am

Council to hold off on taking any actions until after first of year

By Terry Duffy


Lewiston Town Board members opened their Monday regular meeting with a public hearing session to gauge community sentiment on matters of short-term rentals/Airbnbs operating within the town.

While the Village of Lewiston has in place a series of regulations and procedures to govern short-term rental operations, the town, for the most part, does not. Town Board members have discussed the issue in the past, but have yet to officially take a stand – beyond enacting a moratorium.

This week, the board heard from 24 members of the community. A number of speakers came out decidedly against short-term rentals within the town, while others spoke out in favor. Supervisor Steve Broderick gauged the response as being roughly even.

Those in opposition raised concerns on a number of issues, from the behavior of renters and their activities, to the appropriateness of the existence of these operations in neighborhoods, and their impacts on the quality of life for residents, and property values.

Former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, a Lower River Road resident, said, “I appeared before the Town Board a few weeks ago expressing my opposition to allowing short-term rentals like Airbnb. … I stressed to board members that their decision on this issue will have negative repercussions and consequences long after their service on the board is over. They have an obligation to protect the residential quality of life.”

She added, “From what I understand, Lewiston has a moratorium in place banning shot-term rentals, but fails to enforce it. These types of short-term rentals do not belong next to my house or anyone else’s.”

DelMonte suggested the town consider addressing the issue in a fashion similar to the Town of Niagara, which adopted a local law in January.

“That law acknowledges the negative impacts of health, safety and welfare to the Town of Niagara, and prohibits short-term rental uses in agricultural, single-family residential, single- and two-family residential, multiple-family residential and cluster-residential overlay districts,” she said.

“You have an obligation to not diminish or destabilize our lovely town. And you have an obligation to enforce the law, not cherry-pick or issue special permit uses. Communities everywhere are rallying up against short-term rentals; this is our time to put an end to this.”

Supporters of short-term rentals, many of them property owners, spoke of the positive impacts on local tourism and the economy, and of the positive impressions from visitors.

Others said they would be comfortable with these operations having some type of regulations in place to monitor them.

Chuck Barber said, “I’m an Airbnb owner. I live in the Town of Lewiston. I’m a business owner in the Town of Lewiston, and so I strongly believe in the value of this area.

“I believe we have the opportunity to make many enhancements to existing properties, to make them more attractive in the residential neighborhood that they’re situated in. And I believe we bring people in (to enjoy) our festivals, our businesses – (we bring in) a lot more traffic.

“I actually believe an Airbnb is better than having a troublesome renter. Many of the Airbnb rentals, have had positive experiences with us, everything has been positive, there have been no problems. I do appreciate there can be some rules or regulations for guidance, but I am here to support them.”

Broderick said the Town Board would not take action on short-term rentals until after the first of the year, when newly elected member Sarah R. Waechter takes office.

Waechter said her family operates a short-term rental in the Finger Lakes region and, overall, has had positive experiences with the operation. However, she also told the board she had “reservations of Airbnbs in residential neighborhoods” and said she felt they should be allowed in commercial and business districts – with their operations regulated through town zoning or other legislation (local laws).

Broderick indicated he could support a similar approach.

“I think it’s good that everybody’s sitting down (to discuss this) and doing it,” he said. “It’s what government is all about, making a wise decision. We’re going to take that into consideration and make a decision after the first of the year.”

As to the board’s position on short-term rentals, Broderick said, “We’ve discussed it and, yes, this is the first time we’ve reached out to the public.”

Commenting on how Lewiston may approach this, he continued, “The Association of Towns put out a recommended law from another community that was shared with everybody (on our board). I like the law, (if it’s ever enacted). I’d just want to put out a few more stipulations on it.”

In the meantime, Broderick said the town continues to welcome input from the community on this issue. He encouraged residents to continue to comment and reach out to him as the board considers its next step.

“We’re going to take the public’s input, and we’re not just going to have one public hearing,” he said. “Anyone can come to a work session or regular meeting and talk about it. We take into consideration what people think, and right now (the sentiment) is about 50/50.”

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