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EXCLUSIVE: Short term rentals divide community in Watkins Glen (video)

Watkins Glen is a village known for its tourism. The village is home to many attractions, including Seneca Lake, wineries, breweries, Watkins Glen State Park and Watkins Glen International race track.

Some travelers may opt to stay at a short-term rental property when visiting the village. It’s a trend that’s causing quite the stir in this lakeside community.


Watkins Glen residents are tired of rental vacation homes causing problems in the community (video)



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Resident says a single company bought up multiple properties to use as short-term rentals

Brad Eakins is a longtime resident of Watkins Glen. He lives on a busy street in the town center.

Eakins home is surrounded by three different short-term rental vacation homes.

“Over time, a large percentage of our street was purchased by a single company. That company has about 20% of the permits in Watkins Glen for short-term rentals. We’ve had noise, and we’ve got garbage in the street and trespassing. And I think a lot of people that live next to these types of rentals have those same issues.”

He moved to Watkins Glen in 2015 when he had neighbors on his street. Now, almost every house on the street is a short-term rental.


“We definitely do still have some complaints,” says village trustee

Laura DeNardo is on the village Board of Trustees.

She explained that, around the same time the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative came to Watkins Glen in 2016, the village began receiving more attention as a potential spot to set up short-term rentals.

“Through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, that $10 million grant that we received in Watkins Glen, we set aside $50,000 to update our zoning,” said DeNardo. “With that zoning update, we had put a moratorium on short-term rentals for two years until that zoning law was updated.”

DeNardo explained that the village now has a select 8% or 81 properties that are allowed to be short-term rentals. Others that didn’t make the cut are put on a waitlist.

“Our codes department monitors it pretty closely. It’s a pretty extensive process to get licensed. They’re really good about letting us know if they see something advertised that hasn’t been approved. So there’s a bit of that. We’ve had a couple of incidences just this summer,” she said.


Resident: Officials “still need to prove that the new zoning law is going to work”

The village’s 2022 zoning law states, “existing, previously approved STRs under this Zoning Law shall be subject to inspection by the [Code Enforcement Officer] prior to renewal of a special use permit.”

“There have been no fines, no enforcement. Basically, it’s fallen on deaf ears from what I can tell,” said Eakins.

According to Eakins, short-term rentals are also forcing people who work in Watkins Glen to seek housing in surrounding communities because of the lack of long-term housing available in the village.

In a statement to FingerLakes1.com, a resident named Stephanie Monroe said that this issue has “caused a lot of turmoil in our little county.”

“I’ve seen neighbors put in impossible positions due to encroachment of short-term rentals on their rights as homeowners and land owners, and I’ve seen the dynamic between folks building outside the code for these types of building and the effects of that. Watkins Glen has been impacted by short-term rentals which flaunt related code,” she added.


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