The Bellport Village Board found itself facing a room full of people Saturday concerned with village homeowners renting out their properties to strangers for short-term stays.
Most in the crowd also appeared to be displeased with the board’s recent attempt to encourage legal bed-and-breakfasts.
Though one resident said he didn’t understand what everyone else in the room was so afraid of.
In response to a request to clarify the current status of the code at Saturday’s Village Board meeting, Trustee Bob Rosenberg, who spearheaded the legislation, said “moratorium may not be the best word.”
He said the measure has been deemed “null and void.”
“So anything we do moving forward is starting from scratch,” Rosenberg said.
One village resident who took toe the podium, Mary Butler of South Howells Point Road, said she was speaking on behalf of many of her friends and neighbors in attendance — to not take up everyone’s time on a nice summer day.
“We know there are several homes in residential areas here in the village that are advertised as bed-and-breakfasts, boarding houses, a bed-for-rent operation if you will,” she said. “These advertisements state that the homeowner’s clients will have access to and use of the golf course, the ferry, Ho-Hum Beach and Mother’s Beach.”
In reference to last month’s passed bed-and-breakfast code, she said:
“We are here today, to say clearly that we do not want any B&Bs, boarding houses, rooms for rent, or any motel operations in any of the residential areas of the village. We want our residential zoning districts to remain that, residential.”
She said her and neighbors’ analysis of existing village code makes these operations illegal, and added that the village should be able to crack down on such short-term rentals without any new local laws.
Butler was then invited to meet with the board at its Sept. 14. work session.
“While I’m a little dubious we can accomplish anything we want from the existing code, it may well be there are other solutions that are more attractive to the community,” Rosenberg said. “We lost the summer, we now have the winter to contemplate, to deal with what we agree is a problem.”
But Rosenberg and Bellport Mayor Ray Fell did note that the village has not heard complaints over any problems at short-term rental houses, such as wild parties — though one resident said a friend of his did try to complain but the complaint wasn’t taken seriously.
That was something the two board members said they found hard to believe.
“Right now it’s 20 [houses], next summer it could be 50, the summer after that could be 200,” Fell said. “We can’t have homes that people are buying and then deciding they’re going to be absentee landlords and just rent the houses for days at a time, or weekends only.
“So we have to do something about it. I don’t think there’s anybody who wants a party next to their house every weekend.”
Summer resident John Stonborough scoffed at this notion of wild parties, saying his family had a celebration this summer and appreciated being able to put up his son’s family in a nearby house for a short stay.
“Whether it was illegal or not, I don’t know; maybe I’m a criminal,” Stonborough said. “However, I must say they were very quiet. The house was extremely nice. It was quite close to several restaurants in the area and they had a very nice time there.
“Now I’m not entirely sure what you all feel and fear,” he continued. “The reality is there is very little accommodations around here for perfectly reasonable people to come and stay, the same people you would actually quite like. We’re not talking about people having wild parties. Bellport is not a wild party kind of a place.”
He finished his statements by saying more visitors to the village wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
“It could be a good thing,” he said.
Top photo: A view of the bay from Shore Road in Bellport Village. (Credit: Michael White)