By Steve Hoepfl
I came to the (Webb) town board in 2018 after seeing a news story and interview with a local resident of Cooperstown on the STR law they passed. In the interview they said it was a good law that it would help keep their community a place where people could and wanted to live. Since then we have had several residents served eviction notices so properties could be used as STR and locals are being out bid by as much as $70,000 for a house and when the new owner takes it over they turn it into a STR. So that covers the could part of the interview and the want part is also coming about. I have talked with many people that are rethinking their plans on retiring and staying in Old Forge and one person is to the point that they put road cones on the property line when the houses next to them are rented.
Because they are tired of the guests parking in his yard.
In 2019 I came to the board and proposed buying 5 houses on Moose River Trail to put up a motel. The board told me I couldn’t do that. It’s a residential neighborhood and motels aren’t allowed. I said OK. I’ll buy the 5 houses and rent them out of my motel office to different people every day of the week.
The zoning officer was at the meeting and said I could do that. That that was a loop hole in the law that needed to be addressed. To this day the loop hole hasn’t been fixed and we now have investors with numerous properties, one I heard has thirteen doing just what I brought to the board’s attention. So I would say that I’m two for two with my concerns that I brought to the board about STR.
I’d like (Town Board Member) Barb Green and the board to contemplate something. When Barb started her shop across from the post office I’m guessing she had to go to the planning board, zoning and the state for her to have her shop.
During that time I had heard there was a lady on Hollywood Hills Road that was cutting hair one day a week at her home. She was just making some extra money for whatever reason and I’m sure this wasn’t any threat to Barb and her shop. Lets imagine as time went by more people started doing the same thing and all of a sudden there was one, two or more people doing the same thing on just about every street in Old Forge. How long do you think it would be before Barb did notice what was going on and become a threat to her.
In a 500-foot radius of Timm Assoc building numerous properties that have been converted to STR use and combined they have more bedrooms for rent than some of the area motels. One of them being the property Barb has her shop in.
I have heard more than once that the board doesn’t want to put an undo burden on the property owners that are doing STR. Has the board thought about the burden they are putting on the area hotel, motels, B&B and cabin colonies? A perfect example of this is Daiker’s Brookside Motel, a four room motel that I’m guessing sleeps 16 . They have to abide by all the local and state laws. But a house on Hollywood Hills road that was bought and turned into a STR that sleeps 20 doesn’t?
The town’s master plan clearly talks about the effect STR can have on our community in numerous places. Under hot button topics, threats and even an appendix on it. How is this law addressing the problems highlighted in the master plan?
When the members of a town board take office they become stewards of the community or almost like becoming a parent to the community. I’m sure the board is getting a lot of push back from property owners about this law. But as a parent do you give into a child just because they keep bugging you for what they want or do you do what is best for them or as stewards, what is best for our community and its residents? I understand that the board has an obligation to the property owners, but when did part of that obligation become making sure they can afford the property?
What are my concerns for 2022 and the effect STR are having on the community? How many more long term rentals will be lost and how much of our work force will move away. As more properties get converted to STRs and it becomes harder to fill them and less lucrative, how long do you think it will be before the pricing wars starts between them? I have already seen prices drop on some STR What effect is it going to have on the hotel, motels, B&B and cabin colonies. There will always be a market for the hotels and motels in the area. We are a tourist town. But will all of them be able to survive? As some have been bought as investment properties and when the profit margin goes down will it be sold off? Who knows maybe this could be a good thing. One of the two properties I’m thinking about could be sold to Dollar General and the other could be turned into affordable housing.
A New York State Law I came across and I think I’m reading it correctly is the primary New York State law that prohibits short-term occupancy, and in turn the use of Airbnb, is the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL). The MDL applies to residential buildings with three or more units; it does not apply to single-family or two-family homes. Section 4 of the MDL was revised in 2010 in response to the rise of Airbnb and the proliferation of short-term rentals. There maybe some area properties in question with this law in mind.
Steve Hoepfl is owner of Christy’s Motel in Old Forge
At top: Photos from around Old Forge show plenty of “for rent” signs but the vast majority are advertising short-term, vacation rentals. Photos by Jamie Organski