Group set to eye changes to short-term rental rules

Date to register homes is officially postponed

The town councilors have officially postponed the deadline for the registration of short-term rentals, and they also scheduled the first meeting of a working group to consider amendments to the ordinance that governs those properties.

According to a resolution unanimously approved Monday, the local licensing requirement set forth by the ordinance, which was passed in August, was extended a year to Jan. 1, 2024. Although the town of Jamestown has contracted with Granicus Inc. to “handle electronic registration” and “other administrative duties” related to the ordinance, the company will not have the platform “up and running until late April 2023.” That timeframe, the resolution says, makes “it impractical to implement and enforce the licensing of short-term rentals for the 2023 summer season.”

The council, moreover, recognizes that electronic registration “is desired over paper registration,” which scuttles that alternative.

As for the working group, which was recommended by a contingency of about 30 short-term landlords, Randy White and Mary Meagher have agreed to represent the council. A meeting was scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 14 in the small meeting room near the entrance to Town Hall. Denise Rounds represented the group of private landlords at the council meeting.

According to a report with recommendations from Rounds’ group, which was presented to the councilors in October, the proposed law became “progressively more restrictive … than when the process started” with the planning commission in January 2020. That includes higher registration fees and more record keeping, and the group also said the local ordinance “is considerably greater” than in surrounding communities. The objective, the group said in its letter, is “simply to affect some very reasonable changes to the ordinance, many of which will significantly reduce the administrative burden on the town.” The narrative, moreover, has been “painting a picture of unaccountable shortterm landlords who let their tenants run rampant.”

The report from the landlords said police records dating to 2019, however, show 163 neighborly disputes, and “only nine were short-term renters.” Those nine complaints were “resolved immediately on the spot” with no citations or arrests.

The group is recommending the council amend the ordinance to have a “self-certification process.” The current law requires properties that are rented for fewer than 30 consecutive days to have biennial inspections conducted by the fire marshal and building official. The reason for the proposed change is because the municipality currently does not have the capacity to “take on the additional work.” The amendment, moreover, would remove liability from taxpayers if a lawsuit were to arise from public certifications.

The group also wants a provision stricken that says “a business entity or trust is not defined as a resident for the purposes of this ordinance.” Because nonresidents pay a higher registration fee ($700) than local taxpayers ($350) per the law, Jamestown residents who own their houses in a trust or LLC also are required to pay the higher fee.

The group, moreover, wants to loosen the response time from two to four hours. Under the current ordinance, the owner, or a designated representative, must be available to respond to a complaint within two hours. The group, however, said “there are innumerable reasons why people must turn off their phones during the day for more than a couple hours.” They also want the ability for renters to provide a backup representative in case the primary contact does not respond.

According to the ordinance, the owners of short-term rentals will have to be registered with the town clerk in order to legally rent their homes for fewer than 30 consecutive days.

A resident is defined “as the record owner of a parcel of real estate who physically resides in the subject property for no less than 183 days per year, and has designated the subject property as their legal residence” for voter registration.

The group is asking for the fee to be lowered from $350 to $50 for residents, and they also want to exempt owner-occupied shortterm rentals.