Editor’s Note: This is part of a series on issues in the town of Gorham that were highlighted at a contentious Town Board meeting last week. Links to all parts are, or will, be published at the bottom of this story as they are released.
The Gorham Town Board is considering amending the municipal code to add a short-term rental law. The law, according to Councilor Jake Chard, is simple.
“It’s essentially going to be an application for anyone who wishes to host a short-term rental such as AriBnB or Vrbo and such,” Chard said. “It will create guidelines that we can then hopefully enforce.”
According to the law (check it out here), “The purpose of this Chapter is to regulate the business involving the short-term rental of residential properties to ensure such rentals do not create public safety hazards nor become disruptive to the quality of life for other residents in the neighborhood where the property is located.”
Residents: They should be regulated
And residents who live near rentals were not shy about why they support these changes.
“There is a noise ordinance, but there’s no inspection of the properties,” resident Brad Stevens said. “AirBnb is a business. They make money. But they’re not zoned for commercial businesses. They should be regulated.”
Stevens said he’s in favor of the regulations, especially because he’s dealt with late-night noise issues.
“I had no knowledge an AirBnB was going to be next to me,” Stevens said. “Normally when a business goes in, say like for a variance, neighbors are notified. There’s no notification of this.”
Renters: The law needs to be adjusted
But renters like AirBnB host Joe Valenti voiced concerns about the law during a Town Board meeting last week.
“I would be compliant with all the rules that they’re bringing up,” Valenti said. “But I also think it might be a little too much reach or a little too much government, like some other residents said.”
And it’s in the details of the proposed law where renters took issue, making for a few heated back-and-forths among renters and neighbors.
“It was tense,” Valenti said. “I feel like a lot of the older residents have known that we’ve always have renters on Canandaigua Lake. There are people who used to rent here who now own AirBnBs here and rent to other people. I was happy to talk about my experiences and my expertise as a Superhost and let people know that there’s a lot that goes into the rating system as an AirBnB host. If I don’t do a good job, people won’t be renting from me for very long. And I think the town kind of missed that. It’s not the hosts that are doing a bad job. It’s the guests that residents don’t like.”
Another issue renters had was surrounding the insurance coverage as stated in the law. The law states there must be, “General liability insurance coverage of at least one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) for each dwelling unit to be listed on the Short-Term Residential Rental License indicating the property is rated as STR (Short Term Rental).”
But renters said they already have coverage through hosting sites, so they wanted the town to adjust the language.
“Think about who already has a million-dollar liability or is covered through AirBnB or Verb,” Valenti said.
Renters also asked the Board for clarity on the age limit when it comes to how many people can occupy a property based on the number of beds available.
“They never mentioned whether a toddler or an infant needs their own bed, if they’re in a crib or a pack-and-play,” Valenti added. “A lot of their regulations were about how many guests could sleep there based on the number of beds or parking spaces.”
What’s the next step?
As for whether or not the Board will adjust the law, we have not heard back yet on our follow-up questions.
But the night of the meeting, Councilor Chard told us the changes are reasonable.
“They’re fairly minimal,” Chard added. “From what we’ve seen, they’re not too imposing on the day-to-day of someone who is acting properly. It’s more to address people who act improperly for our community.”
The Board plans to vote on the law during the next meeting on November 9.
MORE FROM THIS SERIES
- Part I: Why are Gorham residents so frustrated with the Town Board? (Monday, Oct. 17th)
- Part II: Inside the decision to borrow money to build a $5.5M highway building (Tuesday, Oct. 18th)
- Part III: Should short-term rentals be scrutinized with greater regulation in Gorham? (Wednesday, Oct. 19th)
- Part IV: Traffic concerns vs. economic development in Gorham — What’s wrong with County Road 18? ( Thursday, Oct. 20th)
Rebecca is a veteran multimedia journalist serving as one of our core reporters in the Finger Lakes region. She is responsible for telling stories that matter to every day Upstate New Yorkers. Have a question or lead? Send it to [email protected].