‘Some consensus’: Dunkirk nearing short-term rental law

Dunkirk Town Board member Juan Pagan shared his thoughts on the language for the proposed law.

After much deliberation in the town of Dunkirk, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally starting to come into focus.

The Town Board met last week for a workshop to discuss the drafting of a law to restrict short-term rental properties in the town.

“We’ve tossed this thing around quite a bit. We’ve got to make a decision here soon,” said Dunkirk Town Supervisor Richard Purol.

The Town Council met with consultant Justin Steinbach to discuss their intentions with the necessary language in the law being drafted. In attendance were 12 members of the public to witness the meeting.

“We keep going around and around here,” said board member Jay Bishop. “We can stipulate accessory use, we can stipulate rules and regulations. … That’s the direction we’re going.”

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen The Dunkirk Town Board met with consultant Justin Steinbach via video conference to assist in drafting a law to restrict short-term rental properties in the Town of Dunkirk at a recent workshop.

A major talking point during the workshop meeting was how to restrict an outside investor from purchasing a property to use solely as a rental for profit, rather than as their residence. The Town Board was more receptive to properties they defined as “accessory use” in which the owner lists the home as their primary residence, but then opens it up as a rental property for stretches of the year when they are not residing on the property.

The Town Board was in agreement that something needs to be finalized soon after all this time spent on the issue.

“It just seems like we don’t make a decision about any one thing. It seems maybe now we’re ready to make a decision — maybe not — about accessory use or investment use. Maybe we have some consensus here about at least that part of it,” said Town Council Member Priscilla Penfold. “It just seems like we need to move forward somehow.”

Penfold also brought up a property owned by Matt Bromberg currently in use as a short-term rental. At the last Town Council meeting, Bromberg was in attendance, along with his wife Brooke Pennica Bromberg and his mother Maggie Bromberg, who asked the board for consideration of his property. Bromberg’s property could fall under the umbrella of accessory use because he lives on the property at times during the year. That decision will depend on the language in the law once it is finalized. The board did not yet decide on a specific amount of days that would be required to determine residency for accessory use.

“If we’ve got to lean some way, I think accessory would be the way to lean,” said Town Board member Juan Pagan. “It’s a tough decision, no doubt.”

“I agree with Juan, I like the accessory use better than investment,” added Penfold.

Steinbach said it was his understanding the Town Board does not want to have to heavily police the issue, but rather to have a mechanism in place to control short-term rentals so they do not become out of hand.

“What bothers me is that even if you say you don’t want somebody to come in and buy a place simply for the point of an investment, how do you know what they are going to do? … You can’t police everybody,” said Purol.

Another point of consideration Purol raised when it comes to residence requirements was what to do in the case of an inheritance leading a new owner to possess a property. “Let’s face it, we’re all getting older. … If you have an older couple that dies and their kids now own the house, what do they do with the house? Unless they have permanent residence, they wouldn’t be able to do anything with it,” said Purol.

“There is no easy answer. I wish there was,” said Steinbach.

The board scheduled another workshop meeting to continue editing the language of the proposed law for Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. at the Town Hall.


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