GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) — Some land owners say they have a right to rent their property to tourists. Longtime locals argue those short-term “vacation” rentals ruin the land they love. Town leaders feel like they are left in the middle of this political tug of war.
In the summer of 2013, Frank Greco started hearing from fellow neighbors on West River Road. They were upset about about loud late-night parties, doors slamming, and boisterous visitors. “Basically, you have new people every weekend and people that you don’t know,” Greco said. He’s called the quiet corner of Grand Island home for 40 years.
“This is a marvelous place, a very small community,” Greco said. “Birds chirped during our backyard conversation. Few cars passed. In your right mind, would you want to live next to a tourist home? It really invades the privacy of the people who are permanent residents.”
The Grand Island town code bans short-term rentals — those fewer than 30 days. Town Supervisor Mary Cooke says inspectors started cracking down in 2013. “We did some investigation. That led us to the Internet. That led us to find a whole list of places that were being advertised as a great place to come for the weekend,” Cooke explained.
Supervisor Cooke said this is happening in many desirable destinations across the country. “A group of people would show up on a Friday or Saturday, party hard all weekend and leave Sunday or Monday. When that occurs every single weekend, the neighbors aren’t happy, and I don’t blame them,” Cooke admitted.
Inspectors’ investigations led to citations against property owners based on ads posted on Craiglist and Airbnb. The property owners fought back with a lawsuit. This April a state supreme court judge sided with the homeowners, saying the town’s code was too vague with how it defined a tourist home.
Not all neighbors are against the idea of tourist homes. Chris Gress has a much more postive impression. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood, and I don’t mind sharing it,” Gress quickly told News 4.
A house down the street from her on North Colony has served as a short-term rental in the past. Gress has enjoyed the company. “We’ve met some really nice people. Usually, they’re tourists people wanting to visit the area. They love the neighborhood, and I’ve had some great conversations with people,” Gress said.
Supervisor Cooke says the town will appeal the judge’s ruling; any resolution is likely a year away. For now inspectors will continue enforcing the ban on short-term rentals, but the conversation is far from over.
“I think the code enforcement will continue to monitor [web postings]. The letters will go out to let them know, we have evidence you’re doing this, and our code doesn’t allow it,” Cooke said.
The town may also hold a public hearing to discuss changing the wording in its code to more clearly define what a “tourist home” is.
“Do we want them or don’t we? If the answer is yes, how do we manage it?” Cooke asked.