The Brookhaven Town Board meeting on May 4 held a discussion of proposed legislation regarding transient rentals (fewer than 28 days as described by NYS code) within the town. According to deputy town attorney Beth Reilly, the proposed Local Law No. 6 of 2023 amending Chapter 85 entitled “Zoning” and Chapter 82 entitled “Neighborhood Preservation” of the town code, is a clarification meant to ensure town residents understand the existing law surrounding short-term rentals.
Town attorneys concurred that transient rental occupancies and transient recreational uses are currently not permitted in the Town of Brookhaven, and these uses are already subject to investigation and prosecution. The amendment also includes the addition of “specific penalties” for those running said rentals.
“We want to make the code clear. When someone opens up the code and they see that it is a prohibited use, this makes it easier for people to understand,” Reilly explained, adding that there has been significant misconceptions among residents who believe the new amendment would be introducing the illegality of these already-prohibited uses.
Town officials made it clear multiple times that anyone submitting a statement under oath at the meeting who admits to violating the current code, sharing their address or other specifications, would be subject to prosecution, as the attorneys are required to enforce town code. The town acknowledged residents’ concerns regarding the ability to acquire supplemental income, the importance of tourism in promoting the economic welfare of the town, and the fact that many tourists often prefer lodging accommodations in these more personalized services than hotels or motels.
With that in mind, the town does currently permit bed and breakfasts with a special permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals and conditions of the code are complied with. Additionally, legal accessory apartments are legal certain zoning categories for homeowners seeking additional income through property rentals.
“As far as transient recreational uses, when a homeowner rents out their backyard, their pool, their tennis court, whatever accessory uses that they have, what they’re doing is operating a separate commercial enterprise,” explained Reilly. “Accessory structures are for the private use of the homeowner and their guests. It’s not a separate business. That’s not what an accessory use is, to a single-family dwelling.”
Resident Richard Lupo spoke at the public hearing, expressing concerns regarding transient rentals in his neighborhood. Lupo explained that as a resident of over 20 years, he has experienced many issues arising from illegal rentals and occupants acting against previously agreed-upon terms, including house fires and pistols being shot off.
“Overall, no matter how well [the owners] vet the renters, the truth is they have no control over who is sleeping in the house next door to me,” Lupo said. “It’s just not something I think the owners of these houses would want living next door to their primary residence.”
Lupo, along with other residents with similar viewpoints, also questioned why their complaints about local short-term rentals have seemingly gone unheard, and officials, including supervisor Ed Romaine, assured due diligence on the town’s end. However, Romaine and others explained that the only action in the town’s purview is to issue tickets to violators in the hopes that they will show up to a court hearing. There are often many delays throughout the court process. To continue writing tickets and sending officials out to investigate these instances, Romaine said, costs significant taxpayer money and often yields no results.
Other residents, including Patrick Fife of the Long Island Board of Realtors, expressed issues with the amendment. Fife cited ambiguities with the aforementioned code that officials said outlaws short-term rentals and raising concerns regarding the possible detriments of this amendment to property owners, the economic health of the community, and the rights of renters.
Fife acknowledged the concerns of the town officials and residents regarding quality-of-life hindrances that short-term rentals have yielded, but suggested that “there are other sensible regulation and enforcement mechanisms that can address these concerns without jeopardizing owners’ property rights and without jeopardizing the economic benefits that short-term rentals bring.”
There is currently a change.org petition, entitled “Brookhaven Alliance for Homeowners Rights Opposes Brookhaven NY’s Proposed Ban on STR,” which has 711 signatures and counting. Among the comments on the petition, signees cited benefits of enticing tourists to visit and stay comfortably on Long Island, support for local businesses, homeowners’ rights to use their property as they see fit, and many commenters called the motion an overreach by local government.
Following the public hearing on the matter, the proposed amendment will be scheduled for a vote in the future.