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Bellport sets hearings on rental, bed-and-breakfast policies

Bellport Mayor Ray Fell says a hearing will

Bellport Mayor Ray Fell says a hearing will address permitting bed-and-breakfasts to operate in the zoning district where law, dental and medical offices are allowed. Nov. 8, 2016 Credit: Heather Walsh

The Bellport Village board of trustees has set a public hearing for later this month to amend a code that would expand where bed-and-breakfasts can be located.

Meanwhile, board members are expected to have a separate public hearing in December to set guidelines on the regulation of home rentals, village officials said.

The two public hearings are meant to address questions regarding bed-and-breakfasts in the village as well as short-term rental policies, both of which have been controversial.

Mayor Ray Fell said the Nov. 21 hearing would address allowing bed-and-breakfasts to operate in the zoning district where law, dental and medical offices are allowed.

In the as-yet-unscheduled December hearing, the law, if adopted, would allow homeowners to rent their homes to guests for unlimited periods of time, village officials said.

“The renter will have all rights of residents to use the golf course and beaches and other village amenities,” Fell said. “We’re going to treat all rentals the same.”

Homeowners must annually pay $250 to register their home as a rental property and assure they have properly installed smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

The homeowner or renter would have to pay an additional $100 lease fee to the village and the renter must pay $75 to the village for an identification card.

After one year, according to Fell, board members would re-examine the codes to determine whether they need modifying.

“We’re just going to have to go through it in one year and see if we have to become more regulatory or less regulatory,” the mayor said.

Mary Butler, chairwoman of the village’s bed-and-breakfast committee, said her group made recommendations for both hearings.

“Safety has to come first. We wanted to make sure people and the community” are safe, she said, speaking of homeowners using their homes as rentals.

“Quite honestly, I would say bed-and-breakfasts is a business, and if there is a commercial zone, then that’s OK,” said village resident Dick Serocki, 69, a longtime critic of short-term rentals. “My motivation is to keep short-term rentals out of the residential districts.”

Village board members originally adopted a bed-and-breakfast code last year that would have allowed them in residential neighborhoods but never filed it with the New York Department of State in Albany for approval, as required by state law. Therefore, the law died after 30 days.

At the time, trustees said they received a lot of backlash after the law was enacted and in turn opted to form a committee to collect residents’ opinions on the matter.

One issue the village board struggled with was how to distinguish a bed-and-breakfast rental with short-term stays from longer-term rentals being advertised on lodging websites such as Airbnb.

Officials have also grappled with whether renters should be allowed to use amenities such as village beaches and the golf course.

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