The small Columbia County village of Chatham is the latest community to wrestle with how to deal with short-term home rentals such as Airbnb.
This month, village officials adopted new zoning rules that limit how property owners can rent out their residences, in a bid to balance potential problems like overcrowding, noise and trash with the right of owners to make extra money.
Such rentals are a “hot button issue” in the picturesque village of 1,600 residents, said Karen Murphy, chairwoman of a zoning advisory group that studied and recommended the changes, during a public hearing last fall.
Murphy said it would not be fair for such rentals to have advantages over such existing businesses as beds and breakfasts, that must comply with zoning regulations.
An online fact sheet posted by the village this month said rules were meant to deal with both positive and negative aspects of such rentals. Negatives include potential neighborhood disruption, and an increase in local real estate prices driven by potential rental profits. Positives include increased tourism and local sales.
This week, the Airbnb website showed nearly 50 potential lodging sites for Chatham, with an average nightly price of $172.
Since its founding in 2008, Airbnb has continued to grow as more people turn to it as a way to make money. It currently has 2.9 million hosts worldwide, and is adding 14,000 new hosts every month, according to its website.
Under Chatham’s new rules, owners will need short-term rental permit either from the village code enforcement officer or Planning Board, depending on whether they live in the home being rented, how many days a year they expect to conduct rentals, and the zoning classification of their property.
A resident is defined as someone who lives in their home at least 160 days during a year.
The law separates such rentals into four categories:
— Class 1, where non-resident owners rent less than 30 days each year, and have a residence with no more than five bedrooms. Such rentals are allowed in all neighborhoods.
— Class 2, where residents can rent more than 30 days each year, but can have a maximum of two bedrooms and no more than one outside employee. Such rentals are allowed in all neighborhoods.
— Class 3, where residents can rent more for than 30 days, with a maximum of five bedrooms and more than a single employee. Such rentals are allowed in all neighborhoods.
— Class 4, where non-residents can rent for more than 30 days, but can have no more than five bedrooms. Such rentals are not allowed in residentially zoned neighborhoods, and are limited to business and industrial zones.
The measure comes as the Adirondack tourist hub of Lake Placid also considers potential limits on short-term rentals, as some neighbors complain of crammed homes, renters’ cars filling up residential streets, and noisy alcohol-fueled nighttime parties.
There are more than 300 Airbnb rentals in Lake Placid, and since a home rented out to tourists can turn a hefty profit, such rentals are driving up home prices beyond the reach of locals who live and work there.
Lake Placid Village Mayor Craig Randall said officials in the village and the town of North Elba are still weighing a proposed new law to control short-term rentals that has sparked a debate between some who see rentals as a threat to the 2,400-resident village and other owners who see it as an economic benefit to themselves and the local tourist economy.
In 2014, officials in the village of Lake George, another popular Adirondack tourist destination, tackled the issue of short-term Internet rentals by banning house rentals of less than six months in residentially zoned areas.
At that time, there were only 16 known short-term rentals in the village, but complaints already had started, with one notorious case involved a college fraternity that rented a home for a weekend party and then arranged to have a portable toilet placed on the front lawn.
When the village was enacting the six-month lease requirement, which covered about 85 percent of the village, there were some complaints from some property owners, but none ever pursued legal action.