CAROGA — A new town ad hoc committee in Caroga will potentially flesh out a set of new recommendations to regulate short-term rentals in the coming months.
The group, chaired by Councilwoman Barbara DeLuca, was formed to address worries over property conditions as travel apps like Airbnb and Vrbo continue to drive tourism to the area. Caroga Town Supervisor Scott Horton hopes forthcoming suggestions will materialize into legislation by the summer.
“It’s a pretty good return on your investment,” Horton said about short-term rentals. “Now, the problem with the properties in the town of Caroga, many of them are old and so we have concerns.”
Membership so far includes DeLuca, code enforcement officer Anthony Fancher, Planning Board Chairman Al Kozakiewicz and Tor Shekerjian, Horton’s confidential secretary. Vacant is still a representative slot from the short-term rental community, which is required in order to have any weight.
The Town Board weighed the possibility of adding more members, but ultimately opted to approve a five-person group in hopes of making discussions easier to manage.
“Why wouldn’t it be half [owners]? Because obviously, the people doing the Airbnb know what they’re doing,” said Patricia Isabella, a long-time short-term rental owner near Caroga Lake. “I think their ratio is messed up.”
Isabella helped rally opposition against a separate town proposal to grant code enforcement more authority over regulating short-term rental units. The proposal, modeled after other lake towns in the region, was tabled and never resurfaced.
“The last thing we need is regulations,” said Isabella.
Horton, who lives on West Caroga Lake, worries about renters showing disruptive behavior towards long-term or seasonal residents. He’s also concerned that properties aren’t all properly fitted with infrastructure to meet the demand.
“Many of the places that are being used now for short term rentals, we have no information on the septic system or the water,” said Horton. “We don’t know if it’s safe and sanitary.”
As supervisor-elect, he opposed regulation efforts in 2019, telling the Town Board at the time that it was a government over-step and baseless. He stands behind his past rationale.
But with tourism having increased since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of registered rentals growing, Horton now believes there’s reason to revisit broader regulations to balance the needs of guests, year-round residents and owners.
About 40 properties are registered under the county’s 2018-enacted 4% tourism tax for short-term rental units in Caroga. The administration believes there are more still unregistered.
“It’s a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface simply because you could have somebody who rents their secondary home a few weeks of the year and then you have people who take it to the other extreme that they purchase properties solely for the purpose of renting them out,” Horton said. “I don’t know where that line is.”
North Greenbush resident John DonVito made an Airbnb out of a home in Caroga to pay for his children’s college expenses and gradually turned the property into a second home in recent years. Once hosting a number of out-of-state guests, he noted that the ad hoc committee should be mindful of potentially impacting interstate commerce.
“The community’s tourism is dependent on short-term rentals in the area,” DonVito said.
DeLuca didn’t provide comment at press time.
The next meeting is on March 30.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil