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Shelter Island residents divided over proposed rental registry

Shelter Island residents were divided at a recent

Shelter Island residents were divided at a recent public hearing at town hall, shown, over proposed legislation to prohibit vacation home rentals that last less than two weeks. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Shelter Island residents were divided at a recent public hearing over proposed legislation to prohibit vacation home rentals that last less than two weeks.

About 40 residents spoke out on Friday about the law, which would also mandate that homeowners apply for licenses with the town before renting out their properties.

About two-thirds of speakers said they opposed the legislation, citing concerns that it would hurt local businesses and residents who rely on the vacation rental market for additional income.

“You want quiet,” resident Barrie Silver told the town board. “They need money.”

About a dozen residents said they supported the legislation because they believe short-term vacation rentals negatively impact the quality of life on the island and turn homes into businesses.

The proposed legislation would also require homeowners to maintain a registry of the people who stay there and pass out “Good Neighbor Brochures” listing town rules to renters. They would also have to make sure their dwellings have current certificates of occupancy and are up to zoning code.

Town Supervisor James Dougherty said Monday that he wants to revise the legislation to include a one-week minimum stay, which he said would “fit in more comfortably with Shelter Island’s history and lifestyle.” He said he plans to discuss the “compromise” with the town board during a work session Tuesday.

Similar rental stay laws are already in place in other East End towns, including East Hampton, Southampton and Southold.

An undisclosed number of Shelter Island homeowners who oppose the legislation hired attorney Brian Blaesser to represent them at the public hearing. Blaesser, a partner with the Boston-based firm Robinson & Cole LLP, said the law could violate renters’ constitutional right to privacy and deny rental access to people who cannot afford longer stays.

More than 360 people signed an online petition calling for even stricter vacation rental rules, including creating a maximum number of four rentals per year, to prevent “changing the character of our community.”

“If allowed to continue, the long-term effect [of short-term rentals] will be the disintegration of that which we cherish about Shelter Island,” the petition said.

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