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Town residents speak against short-term rentals

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen John Warren, of Virginia, attended the Dunkirk Town Board meeting wearing a shirt that said “Stupid Dunkirk Person” in support of his parents and other members of the Dunkirk community opposed to short-term rental properties.

More than 20 members of the community were in attendance at the Dunkirk Town Board meeting on Tuesday. Among the 15 speakers to make public comments, the overwhelming majority shared the stance that short-term rentals are not welcome in their community. The public comments on the issue accounted for 51 of the 75-minute-long town of Dunkirk Board meeting.

Dave Maternowski, a Dunkirk resident, was the first to speak. “The people are here. We’ve been here for a year,” he said.

Maternowski spoke to the concerns of single-lane roads in an impacted part of the community, specifically Shorewood Drive and Woodlands Drive. “One (short-term rental property) is a game-changer. … You’re now going from three extra cars to six extra cars. … I can’t imagine an ambulance or fire truck getting down those roads when it starts turning into a little business district,” Maternowski said. “… I look at my neighborhood and I can comfortably say this is what we don’t want. We don’t want that congestion.”

Dunkirk resident Phil Leone shared a petition with the board, signed by 87 people, in favor of keeping short-term rentals out of the town. “The roads are tight, the lots are tight. It’s not appropriate to be letting strangers or other people into those lots. It would devastate my neighborhood,” said Dunkirk resident William Wright. “I’ve been very fortunate that I have great neighbors throughout and I want it to stay that way.”

Many of the speakers referenced a property on Woodlands Drive they believe is still being used as a short-term rental property, despite their belief the issue had been resolved.

Phil Leone spoke at Tuesday’s Dunkirk Town Board meeting, sharing the common opinion against short-term rentals in the town.

“The Zoning Board made a 5-0 decision that short-term rentals were not allowed in the town. Since then, four separate times people have been there from out-of-state — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. We’ve notified the town enforcement officer … he hasn’t enforced this yet. What are we going to do about enforcement? … If you have 10, 15, who knows how many of these on the lake, who is going to enforce that? We can’t even enforce one of these,” Leone said.

The only speakers to dissent from the stance opposing short-term rental properties were Matt Bromberg, his wife Brooke Pennica Bromberg, and his mother Maggie Bromberg, who all asked the board to give consideration to short-term rentals on larger, secluded properties like the one Bromberg owns and maintains.

“My situation is a little unique. I’m on the east side with 20-plus acres on the lake. I’ve been doing a short-term rental there for a couple years now and haven’t had any problems,” said Matt Bromberg. “I share your concerns and I hear you. … If there is another answer that isn’t so black-and-white, I’m willing to volunteer my time to be on some sort of committee to help figure this out. … I don’t want to lose what I have over there.”

Bromberg resides in Connecticut, but visits Dunkirk often and stays on his land when he visits.

“I love coming here, and when I’m here, I want to be on my land. But financially, it helps out to have that rental income and I can block off that time when my family wants to come,” said Bromberg.

Matt Bromberg owns a short-term rental property in the Town of Dunkirk and hopes his property will not be subject to restrictions.

“Not all properties are alike and not all vacation rental owners are investment property owners. … My husband purchased his land with this community in his mind, not because he was actively looking to make money off of it. It is where we love to be,” Bromberg’s wife, Brooke, added. “28 acres is very different from (many other short-term rental properties in Dunkirk). … If there is any room in the code to allow for different regulations in regard to size or neighborhood … not everything is the same.”

Maggie Bromberg also urged the board to consider provisions to allow her son’s property to continue to be used as a short-term rental.

“I’m just wondering if there could be some flexibility in the code – maybe some criteria if you want to run (a short-term rental) where you have to meet certain things,” Maggie Bromberg said. “If you could have some sort of criteria so people can continue to have what I call a ‘Model Airbnb’ that would be great for the community.”

Another interested party in attendance was John Warren, who now lives in Virginia but spent a good part of his life in the Dunkirk community. Warren visited his former home and made his thoughts known, wearing a white shirt with tape across the front with the words “Stupid Dunkirk Person” written over the tape in marker. The demonstration was a reference to a comment made by a neighbor of his parents — who operates a short-term rental — on a web call while under the impression their microphone was muted.

“I wore this shirt today … to just remind everybody of the type of individual we’re talking about that lives next door to my parents,” Warren said. “This individual, on a Zoom call, forgot to mute, and when people were speaking up, his comments were ‘I’m just listening to these stupid people from Dunkirk.’ If that doesn’t capture what you should fear coming into our neighborhoods, I don’t know what else will.”

Warren offered a defense of his parents, who shared the sentiments of the majority in attendance opposing short-term rental properties in the Town of Dunkirk. He referenced “Lake Etiquette” and stated, “The investors next door, they have none. They have made that abundantly clear. They only care about getting their $500 a night.”

Warren, a childhood friend of Matt Bromberg, also defended Bromberg’s specific situation. Warren was the final speaker from the public to address the board.

“I do believe Mr. Bromberg has a unique situation, and I think if the town is looking to do the right thing, they should factor in 28 acres being very different than houses on Woodlands Drive or further down on Shorewood,” said Warren.

Warren also thanked the board for their service to the community, playfully stating, “This is probably the most thankless job you can do, outside of being a youth sports referee — because being yelled at for missing a call in an 8-year-old’s soccer game is by far the worst.”

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