Moran discusses new Short Term Rental legislation; sets public hearing – The Saratogian

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Short-term rentals have been a highly discussed topic in the Spa City for quite a while now, and through new legislation, Accounts Commissioner Dillion Moran hopes to finally provide some regulations and guidelines that will benefit these rental owners as well as safeguard the communities of Saratoga Springs.

This legislation outlines regulations for Short-Term residential rental properties, a breakdown of Short-Term Rental Permits, processes regarding complaints and violations as well as the handling for suspension and revocation of a Short-Term Rental Permit.

Moran shared that an implementation date has been set for July 1, intentionally falling after the Belmont Stakes so people who have already pre-booked will not lose out. Following the implementation date, there will be a 60-day phasing period, which will cover racing season, and by the beginning of September, it would be anticipated that Saratogians will have started or have gotten through the registration process.

“Our computer system will drive compliance, we have a registry that essentially is going to manage this for us, and we’re going to use technology as well as bring some new people into the city to help with the human side by being a contact point,” Moran said.

A lot of work and community involvement has happened leading up to the introduction of this legislation. Moran hosted four community meetings before this, where members of the public could come out and learn, ask questions, and share their concerns.

“These meetings were to get an understanding of where the community was, and by that I mean the folks who live here,” Moran said. “This program is centered around what we heard from the people who lived here and I think there’s still going to be some folks who maybe feel like they’re being left on the outside, but we want to let them know our minds are open but we have to start someplace. You can’t eat the whale all at once. You got to take a bite at a time.”

This program also isn’t going to be introduced and then set in stone, there’s going to be some mobility and shifting – Moran using Glens Falls whose ordinance was introduced in 2019 and has been amended five times since then.

“We are giving some runway here where after we get the first pass we can start to look at some of the other issues over the winter when it’s not such an imperative and hopefully get things in line,” Moran said. “It’s a new space, so we’re not going to get it right the first time – but we’re going to get close and we’re going to try and get as many folks in the pool as possible.”

A big thing Moran made note of is that this legislation is a first pass, and is specifically limiting short-term rentals to owner-occupied models geared towards people who live in Saratoga Springs. This means if this is where your home is, this is where you file your taxes and/or you are a citizen of the city.

“Since the time that horses started making left-hand turns on Union Avenue, we’ve opened our homes as a huge host community and welcomed people, and so we can continue to be a desirable place for people to visit, but with that comes the benefits of short term rentals these days,” Moran said. “I want that to continue because it is a part of our legacy. It’s who we are, it only makes sense that we would maintain that when trying to draft a piece of legislation like this.”

“It’s really difficult to consider every single other variable, and for that reason, we’re starting here from a very solid place where we’ve always been as a community, and then once we get this passed, once we get the computer system rolling and we get the registration process lined up – we’ll start to understand how many of those rentals that are in that market are owner occupied models.”

The goal of starting with Saratoga-based owners is because, as Moran put it, a person who lives here is generally going to be cognizant of the fact that this is their community and they’re not going to do things that would contribute negatively to a neighborhood where they own property as well as life.

“I think it’s self-governance itself, and I would look at that as sort of like our legacy,” he said. “The counter to this is when there’s no accountability, there’s no local element, it’s a mindless, faceless organization that’s just taken capital out of our community, that’s unacceptable because the downside of it is the quality of life for our citizens. When it is the quality of life of our citizens versus the economics of someone who doesn’t live here, I’m gonna fall to the side of our citizens every single time.”

Originally the idea was thrown around to have a special City Council meeting scheduled but in a pre-agenda meeting with the other supervisors it was decided that a public hearing would take place before the next City Council meeting, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. which will give the community an hour before the regularly scheduled meeting to make their thoughts heard.

Moran will also make a short presentation at the beginning to lay out the criteria for everybody, stating that the legislation will have been posted for a bit allowing everyone to review it.

Moran shared that issues are still being addressed, for example in some recent meetings the topic of what should be done if the person wanting to rent is only wanting to rent for a week or two instead of a more long-term short rental.

Moran explained some of the parameters might seem a little much and that the cost to comply with the new regulations might be a little onerous, so maybe there is a way to provide a limited license or something else along those lines to help those in this situation. These are the questions that Moran hopes the upcoming public hearing brings to life and that solutions could be troubleshooted for them.

Moran also wanted to urge Saratogians not to take other people’s words for what was going on with short rentals but instead reach out to city hall or look into it for themselves. The legislation is available via the city’s website and Moran shared that in the future there are hopes to set up a Frequently Asked Questions section to help people feel more comfortable.

“We’re trying to approach this from a fair place,” he said. “We’re trying to do some sort of structural things that have to happen – the short-term rental process will be completely supported by the people who use it. This means taxpayers in the city are not paying for the short-term rental software but (for) the people who are working on this program, or rather the users of the program. So it’s a user paid-for program plus, so it’s making revenue for the city – not a lot – The intent isn’t to make a ton of money off of this registration process, but make sure it’s certainly paid for.”

The legislation can be found on the city website, and those interested in taking part in the public hearing can do so by coming to City Hall on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.

Saratoga Springs City Hall in downtown Saratoga Springs. (File photo)

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