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Southold residents split over accessory apartment rules

Southold Town Hall in Southold on Monday, Mar.

Southold Town Hall in Southold on Monday, Mar. 12, 2018. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Some residents are questioning whether proposed changes to Southold's rules on accessory apartments would pave the way for more short-term rentals rather than create more affordable housing options.

Southold’s current accessory apartment rules state that owners of homes with accessory apartments must live in at least one of the dwelling units. Proposed code changes would allow property owners to live elsewhere and rent space to other tenants, as long as one of the dwelling units in that home is reserved exclusively for the owner to occupy.

Those changes have been suggested because the town has many seasonal residents who live elsewhere, town officials have previously stated.

Patricia Moore, a Southold attorney and homeowner, told the Southold Town Board at its Aug. 27 meeting that she supported the changes. She said the town was “in dire need of accessory apartments.”

 But some residents at the meeting were skeptical about changing the accessory apartment code.

Robert Hanlon,  an East Marion resident and town board candidate for the upcoming election, said he was worried that removing the requirement for owners to live on their properties would encourage people to monetize their property through short-term rentals. He said that would make it harder for the town to identify people who committed code violations while living there.  

Anne Murray,  president of the East Marion Civic Association, said she felt the changes could allow investors to buy multiple homes and create more accessory apartments to rent as short-term Airbnb’s.

“This could be something that investors are looking at and very eager to take advantage of,” Murray said.

Southold passed a law in August 2015 making it illegal for residents to rent their homes for less than 14 days.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell told Murray at the meeting that even with a principal resident living on that property, it wouldn’t necessarily stop “surreptitious behavior” regarding renting apartments as an Airbnb. “The enforceability is no different now than it was if we kept the primary residency still in place,” Russell said.

Meryl Kramer of Mattituck said she felt the legislation needed to be reviewed further by town agencies to refine its language.

Residents have until Sept. 10 to submit written comments to the board on the proposed code changes. The board will also meet on Sept. 10.

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