Saratoga Springs holds first discussion on short-term rentals

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Strong support was voiced during a discussion Wednesday regarding short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, and how best to regulate them and keep them safe in the spa town. The event drew a crowd of over 100 and was hosted by City Auditor Dillon Moran inside the city center.

“We as a community, just like every other community across the country, have to find a balance point with this,” Moran said as he kicked off the discussion. “Really, tonight is the start of that conversation. I believe those answers exist in this room and within this community because whatever is offered has to be something that the community buys into and that we all think is right.

Moran said part of the conversation was how to determine the number of short-term rentals in the community, who manages them, whether those owners are people who live in the community versus large corporations, and how ensure the safety of first responders who may be called to these properties.

Many at the meeting spoke of the additional income short-term rentals provide them, the economic impact they have on the city, and the measures they have put in place as hosts to try to prevent problems in their properties.

Adam McNeill, who is about to own his second Airbnb in the community, was among the many speakers.

“I’m all for the kind of protection and regulation to ensure that our facilities as Airbnb owners are as safe as possible,” he said.

McNeill said he treats his homes much like a hotel, with diagrams showing where exits are, fire extinguishers and routine checks on things like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

“If it comes with a fee, I’m okay with that too, because I know that for any group or any organization, the few bad apples that exist spoil it for the rest of us. “, did he declare.

He and others have also spoken of the positive economic impact that short-term rentals generate. Sometimes it costs less to stay at an Airbnb than a hotel, and the money saved is spent on local businesses in town instead.

Short-term rentals have also created jobs in the community, with speakers including McNeill explaining how they hire cleaning crews.

Brittany Townsend, who operates and owns fully insured co-housing services, helps Airbnb in the area.

“In the last year we have made 550 turnovers, of which maybe five were problems, where we entered [and] there’s like a party that took place,” she said.

Townsend admitted she had to visit a few properties over the past year to remind customers of the rules. However, she says, overall the customers who rent the properties are good.

She said her company normally employs six people, while that number increases to 15 during track season.

Danielle Mackey-Vermette, Townsend’s chief executive, said people staying in short-term rentals are supporting the local economy. She said she would put things like menus or brochures for local businesses at properties so people know what’s available around them.

“They want to know what’s going on around town,” she said. “They want to know something other than the track where they can eat. They want to know where they can take their children.

Liz, who did not provide her last name, said she could only afford a home in Saratoga because she and her husband had found a place they could rent part of, sometimes staying with their parents on weekends so that short-term tenants can use the place. When they moved to a bigger house, they kept that property and continue to use it as a short-term rental.

“The income we get from it goes to support all of our children’s activities,” she said.

While very few, if any, of those present at the meeting spoke out against such uses, some expressed concerns such as who to call if they have a complaint about an Airbnb. Some owners have responded to these concerns, noting how they handle rowdy, unruly, or bad customers.

Some short-term rental hosts have acknowledged there are some bad guests, saying they had to knock on neighbors’ doors because one of their Airbnb guests was throwing a party or disrupting the neighborhood. Others commented that they know some short term rentals house more people than they have rooms and this should be looked into.

Many have also asked for data on the number of short-term rentals in the city.

“We are currently working on another data collection project where we hope to have data that is current, real and as accurate as possible,” Moran said.

A person who provided only his first name of Mark said the city should consider creating a “multi-party task force” to find a way to regulate short-term rentals. He said open discussions are great, “but they don’t dig into the specifics, they don’t provide the various interests in the community the opportunity to dig into the specifics and kind of represent that faction or that group of the community”.

Attendee Gordon Boyd suggested that those handling short-term rentals should organize themselves and find a representative to communicate with city officials as conversations progress.

During a follow-up conversation Thursday, Moran said he would like to have another discussion that focuses more on some of the topics attendees raised on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.

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