Vernon Township’s ongoing conversation regarding short-term rentals shifted on Monday to enforcement and regulation when it became clear that banning short-term rentals in the township was going to be impossible.
Township Council President Harry Shortway, who has been working on a short-term rental ordinance for 21 months’ office dating back to his time as mayor, said he is not in favor of banning short-term rentals in the township, despite calls from several township residents to do so.
Shortway estimated that there are about 200 short-term rentals in Vernon Township.
“We are a recreation community and it is a thriving business,” Shortway said.
Mayor Howard Burrell said he doesn’t believe the short-term rental business model is going to go away any time soon.
“All the information I have says that it’s just in its infancy,” he said. “There’s a lot of businesses like that. I haven’t heard anyone on this council say ‘we don’t want short-term rentals in Vernon.’ They’re here. We know that they are. It’s an existence of life. All we’re doing is trying to address the situation from a regulation standpoint.”
Several township residents who operate short-term rentals in the lake communities questioned some of the requirements listed on the ordinance.
Peter Erb, who operates a short-term rental in Pleasant Valley Lake spoke about the 3 percent tax, which township officials said hotels pay but short-term rentals do not; number and location of parking spaces, a floor plan, proof of $500,000 insurance, and a measure that limits short-term rentals to two people per bedroom.
The last draft of the ordinance only allowed one car per rented bedroom.
“If I have four guests coming up, two are leaving from the city at 8 o’clock and the other two are leaving from Connecticut at 7 o’clock, how does that make sense for my guests or for me, for that matter,” Erb said.
Erb was also concerned about short-term rental owners being singled out when long-term rental owners are not being regulated.
“I have to worry about my customers coming down and driving by this house that’s got at least 15 bags of garbage underneath the deck and a trail of garbage going up the trail because of bears,” he said. “There are 14 cars on the driveway and in the road, but yet I see in here, I can only have one car per bedroom.”
At the end of the meeting, Councilman John Auberger suggested changing the ordinance to not allow on-street parking.
“The vehicles have to be in the driveway of the residence,” he suggested. “You don’t have to measure and that’s it.”
Lou and Stephanie Blaine of Glenwood have a suite consisting of a bedroom and bathroom in their home that they are considering renting out a few weeks of the year.
Lou, who is retired said a $350 registration fee would put them out of the market.
“We’re just an old couple that wants to rent that bedroom out on a semiregular basis,” he said. “The few of us who are in the owner-occupied sector, there should be some consideration that this is not a full-time income coming in. This is a supplementary income.”
Mike Maniscalco of Highland Lakes said he lives next to a short-term rental, where there have been five or six cars in a two-car driveway and garbage pails have been left out for two weeks because no one was there to take care of it.
“Maybe there’s a way to frame it where those folks who are responsible don’t have to pay the big price for those who do it from 50 or 60 miles away,” he said. “We need them to be vested in the community.”
Shortway said he wants to look at differences for owner-occupied homes and said the ordinance will be reworked and may possibly be ready for introduction again at the next meeting, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24.
“When we do this ordinance, if we don’t get it right, we can change it,” Shortway said. “We’re doing the best we can. We do listen.
“I have to worry about my customers coming down and driving by this house that’s got at least 15 bags of garbage underneath the deck and a trail of garbage going up the trail because of bears. There are 14 cars on the driveway and in the road, but yet I see in here, I can only have one car per bedroom.”
Short-Term Rental Owner
"They’re here. We know that they are. It’s an existence of life. All we’re doing is trying to address the situation from a regulation standpoint.”
Vernon Township Mayor