Plattsburgh city council votes to create short-term rental registry – North Country Public Radio

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North Country towns have been grappling with what to do about short-term rentals. Whether to ban or allow them. How to balance local housing needs with potential revenue from tourists. 

That saga’s been playing out in Plattsburgh. Over the last year, city residents who do and do not support STRs — properties listed for rent on websites like Airbnb and Vrbo — have spoken out at council meetings. 

Airbnb listings in the City of Plattsburgh. Screenshot

Opponents have called for a complete ban on STRs in residential areas. They’ve voiced concerns over safety, traffic, parking, noise and — at a bigger level — housing. 

Matt Tolosky of Ridgewood Drive spoke at a public hearing on Dec. 21. He says an Airbnb on his street means one less residential home and a reduction to the city’s housing supply. 

“It’s disrupted the quality of life on my street and if you multiply that times the many Airbnbs that will come down the road in the future, the facts speak for themselves: Airbnbs reduce residential life and residential housing in Plattsburgh.”

Supporters say it’s not true that STRs don’t benefit the city. They say the rentals contribute to tax and tourism revenue, and aren’t the root cause of the city’s housing shortage. 

Plattsburgh resident Matt Tolosky speaks against short-term rentals during a public hearing on a law creating an STR registry in December 2023. Photo: Cara Chapman

Plattsburgh resident Matt Tolosky speaks against short-term rentals during a public hearing on a law creating an STR registry in December 2023. Photo: Cara Chapman

Jessica Murnane co-owns the Airbnb on Ridgewood Drive that Tolosky was talking about.

“To say that there’s no benefit to our community by offering a comfortable housing environment to what has been described as, my personal favorite, transients, is not only outlandish, but it’s just a lie,” she said at a September council meeting.

A couple of city councilors have said they’d support a ban on STRs. But Mayor Chris Rosenquest pushed for what he called a more balanced approach to both address the residents’ concerns and benefit the city.

In early December, he introduced a law to create a short-term rental registry. It requires those who operate the rentals to obtain annual permits starting March 1, 2024; sets certain space, safety and parking standards; and makes the rentals subject to inspections by the city. 

During the Dec. 21 meeting, Ward 3 Councilor Elizabeth Gibbs expressed concerns over how the new registry would be enforced, including how the code enforcement officer would know an STR is in operation and what the city can do if a property owner fails to allow an inspection or pay a fee.

“It’s not that I don’t support the idea of a short-term rental registry,” Gibbs said, “but I’m concerned that if it doesn’t really have the enforcement that we want it to and if it becomes a law that’s difficult to enforce, … I don’t know if I could support it.”

Rosenquest says concerns over enforcing the STR registry are no different than what the city already deals with when it has to enforce codes for other types of rental properties.

“That’s not a hurdle nor should it be a hurdle to put something in place, which there’s nothing in place right now,” he said. “So the alternative is do nothing, or do a little bit of something and start to chip away at a regular solution that makes sense for everybody.”

The law creating the STR registry ultimately passed four votes to two. The no votes were Gibbs and Ward 1 Councilor Julie Baughn, who’d previously expressed support for a ban.

The council also passed a law creating a vacant building registry that will require owners to register buildings when they become vacant and submit plans to secure, demolish or rehabilitate them. Like the STR registry, it goes into effect March 1.

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