The Town Board of Gardiner held a special meeting March 16 to further discuss the controversial short term rental law, but left without any concrete resolutions.
The members did, however, identify five of the proposed law’s largest issues and suggestions according to significant feedback from community members: that all legal residents should be able to rent one whole house short term rental; that the current draft is financially punitive on owners and support staff, a punishment which seems to be allowing only one rental property and limited whole house rentals to 100 days per year; that implementing the law in the normal fashion would place a short term burden on owners who have rentals scheduled during the balance of 2021; that multi-family homes should be eligible for short term rentals and that current short term rental owners should be grandfathered so that they can continue to rent as they have in the past.
Councilman Warren Wiegand noted that the latter suggested could be resolved by granting owners a grace period prior to the law’s effective date or by providing a town-crafted implementation plan that would delay the law’s effective date.
“I don’t like to use the term grandfathering because, to me, grandfathering is like “in perpetuity.” If you’re grandfathered in for a use, you can do it forever,” said Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic, though she admitted she is in support of some form of a grace period.
Wiegand and Councilman David Dukler agreed a grace period would be beneficial, but questioned what length would be appropriate. Dukler suggested a longer period would provide adequate time to collect data and facts on short term rentals in Gardiner, though a hard deadline needs to be established.
Deputy Supervisor Laura Walls raised concerns that a less restrictive short term law would bend toward the hospitality industry rather than the community, and in turn disrupt Gardiner’s character.
“There’s the nature of community and neighborhoods and volunteerism and knowing your people and not having to live next door to a house that has people coming and going and going and coming,” she said. “Because you can’t have a neighborhood then. You don’t get to know anybody.”
She and Councilman Franco Carucci clashed at several points during the special meeting, with Carucci advocating for less restriction. Walls called the choice a “slippery slope,” and recalled conversations with Carucci in which the two vocalized concerns that short term rentals would prevent their own children from owning property in Gardiner later in life.
Displaying a change of heart, Carucci said there is no proof to suggest short term rentals would drive property values up. He also said that, contrary to Walls’ belief, strict regulations could change the character or Gardiner — residents unable to comply would sell their home to a new owner who could potentially dissolve the appearance of the home.
“If we come out of the gate too strong people might have to sell that second home. And then someone else might come in and do the same thing or do something different,” he said, pointing out that punishing absentee short term rental owners should be included in the law. “The punishment piece is an important component. You have to hold people accountable.”
In the Zoom chatbox, Short Term Rental Association of Gardiner attorney Brandon McKenzie claimed there was lack of clarity around building inspection regimes, the purpose of the primary resident mandate and the punitive nature of the legislation. Others continued to refer to the bill as a “ban” because of its restrictive language. Many supported Carucci’s arguments and admonished Walls, especially after she suggested the board enact the legislation in its current form, gain compliance and reevaluate in a year or two.
“I am deeply uncomfortable about rewriting this law because much of what has been said would require a paramount [amount of change] — not a complete, but one question gets another and then you end up down the rabbit hole,” she said. “Let all our decisions be focused on the community first rather than the industry. I understand that they intersect sometimes but they intersect far less — there’s far more community that’s impacted than the numbers of industry related interests.”
“This argument is tantamount to ‘Let’s blow up the school, study outcomes on education for 1-2 years, and then reevaluate and revise at that time,’” wrote McKenzie.
Todd Baker, an outspoken opponent of the short term rental law, spoke at the tail end of the meeting during the Privilege of the Floor and claimed the board was creating an “us versus them” environment. Because of his disappointment in the board’s responsiveness to public input, Baker said he would be seeking a position on the board in the future.
Majestic closed the meeting after the board agreed to spend the next two weeks considering the points made by one another. At its April 6 workshop meeting, the board plans to make a decision on the primary residence or one allowable short term rental clause and the number of allowable days.
“It may require a rewrite, or based on the vote it may not require anything,” Majestic said.