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Attorney challenges proposed rental law ADVERTISEMENT

Attorney challenges proposed rental law

WATKINS GLEN--The village board of trustees held a public hearing Monday, Sept. 17 to consider the details of a proposed short-term rental law.
Short-term rentals are defined as any residential unit with one dwelling unit that is rented, in whole or part, to any person, group or entity for a period of not more than 30 consecutive nights in which at least one sleeping room is provided by the owner for compensation. Internet sites like airbnb along with others have helped to increase the prominence of short term rentals in Watkins Glen and most other areas in the country.
The board took the time with a standing-room only audience to hear each resident who wanted to speak for a nearly two-hour meeting.
Residents complained about the excessive new fees associated with the law, the details about the new inspections that will be required for rental units, along with the general application process that will require information about street parking, septic system capabilities and general building information.
Several bed and breakfast owners who attended the hearing complimented the village board for making the new proposed law include safety and compliance and features that B&B owners have complied with for years.
But Watkins Glen Attorney Joshua Navone provided the most problematic commentary about the proposed law. Navone said he has reviewed the proposed language of Law #2 of 2018 and he is concerned that several parts may violate the constitution.
Navone outlined each one of the constitutional concerns. First, he noted the problem with the proposed law's section 9.34.5 which may violate Fourth Amendment rights and a person's privacy rights. The proposed law as written would allow a code enforcement officer the right to obtain a search warrant to conduct an inspection of a short-term rental property for the purposes of ensuring rental regulations compliance.
Navone said the proposed law also infringes on a person's Eighth Amendment right prohibiting the government from imposing excessive fines. Navone said the $500 application fee along with additional fines and fees with the proposed law may go against these rights.
Finally, Navone said section 9.34.6 of the proposed short-term rental law infringes on a person's 14th Amendment rights for due process. Currently, the new law would allow an enforcement officer to determine a deficient area after receiving a complaint, then the officer could suspend the short-term rental or revoke the person's rental permit. If revoked, none of the owners of the short-term rental may obtain a new permit for at least one year after the revocation date.
Navone said the village could risk a lawsuit from violating these constitutional rights and then be liable for a large settlement penalty.
After nearly two hours, the village board decided to delay the vote on the short-term rental law.
Mayor Sam Schimizzi said at the end of the meeting that people need to understand the village is simply trying to put sensible regulations in place that make sense for the village overall. However, Schimizzi said he knows they can't please everyone. He said the board has worked on these regulations for months and they expect the final version will be a help to most people in the village.

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