Greenport short-term rental warning letter angers and confuses homeowners who rent

by admin
Greenport short-term rental warning letter angers and confuses homeowners who rent

Since his spring mayoral campaign, through public meetings and in interviews with this newspaper, Greenport Mayor Kevin Stuesey has repeatedly said that fighting illegal short-term rentals in the village is among his top priorities.

He was also the driving force behind a new contract with a software company that will allow for more automated enforcement of the illegal short-term rental code this fall.

So when a letter signed by Mr. Stuessi was sent to all villagers in June, warning that Greenport “has begun strictly enforcing … the short-term rental law” and citing a new restriction not found in village code , the legal short-term rental owners were very upset.

The discrepancy is due to a provision included in the letter but not found in the code that falsely states that legal short-term rentals are limited to one rental every two weeks.

The village code defines a short-term rental as the rental of residential property or part of property in the village for less than 14 days, excluding permitted bed and breakfasts. Short-term rental owners require a village work permit, which must be renewed every two years.

Permits are issued for single-family homes renting a portion of the house or two-family homes with one unit being owner-occupied or occupied by a long-term renter.

Mr. Stuessi said there are currently 346 active rental permits in a village of fewer than 1,000 lots, including commercial properties. He said the black letters on red paper were an attempt to attract the attention of the villagers. Residents told The Suffolk Times that in the past, red paper was used to alert homeowners of overdue or unpaid electricity bills.

The mayor of Greenport sent a letter to all villagers, misrepresenting the local law on short-term rentals. (Courtesy photo)
The mayor of Greenport sent a letter to all villagers, misrepresenting the local law on short-term rentals. (Courtesy photo)

Greenport resident John Kramer, a permitted short-term rental owner since 2015 who organized a neighborhood group with other short-term rental owners, was so frustrated that he sent a follow-up letter to everyone in the village in mid-July calling attention to the error in the letter of the village.

Mr. Kramer said he tried to remedy the situation in person at City Hall, but got nowhere. So he sent a draft of his letter to Mr. Stuesey, with copies going to Village Administrator Paul Pallas and longtime Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips.

”I said, ‘You have to fix this or I will,”’ Mr. Cramer said in an interview.

He again said he had not received a response.


“So I got to the printer, went to the post office and sent the letter to everyone in the community. I thought it was very important.”

Greenport resident John Cramer sent a corrective letter to the villagers following an erroneous letter from village Mayor Kevin Stuesy. (Courtesy photo)

In an interview, Mr. Stuessi acknowledged the error, saying the letter was written by former Village Attorney Joseph Prokop, but said he did not intend to issue a correction or clarify the actual code in a follow-up letter.

Mr. Stuessi said we “made it clear to anyone who was interested” that short-term rentals were not limited to one rental every two weeks.

Reached at his law office in Melville, Mr. Prokop declined to comment.

At a Village Board meeting last week, Mr. Stuessi also clarified what the existing code says to a confused short-term rental owner.

“The village is enforcing the law as written, and so there is a very small number of people who have a permit and are able to rent for less than two weeks,” Mr. Stuessi told The Suffolk Times this week. “Those who can legally do so can rent for more than one weekend.”

He also said that “to be clear, my goal was not to change the existing laws, but to enforce them and increase the penalties for anyone who rents against our code,” adding that he intends to propose increasing the fines next month board meeting.

Mr. Kramer said he believes village officials are cracking down on illegal short-term rentals, which they say could otherwise provide desperately needed affordable housing in the small village.

“They think that by scaring everyone into not hiring, they’re going to somehow miraculously turn into $800 [a month] affordable apartments. That’s not happening.”

Mr. Stuessi denied that the goal of cracking down on illegal rentals was to find new affordable housing.

“I would say that while potentially illegal rentals may eventually come on the market, housing prices in the village of Greenport have become very expensive… We need to find other ways to solve the affordability crisis. That won’t do it. It’s just about this new administration enforcing the short-term rental law [and] for doing the right thing and better managing the community.”

Mr. Kramer also argued in his letter that the rest of the community benefits from legal short-term rentals like his.

“I think what Greenport’s short-term rental owners want is retail, and the restaurants and the village need to understand that our customers, our customers are pouring money into this village and if you don’t want money pouring into this village , a fine. Shut it down and we can turn into the sleepy old coastal port that Greenport has always been for 100 years. And a lot of people want that.

Mr. Kramer said that since the red letter arrived in the mail, he has been interviewing renters to find out how much and where they spend their money. He said he estimates his customers spend $1,000 a day per person on goods, services, food and other commercial vendors in the village.

“If my guests don’t spend $1,000 per person per day – this place is going to be crickets.” Frisky Oyster will be closed seven days a week. Noah’s will not be open. They will close. You will have free seats. Retailers will have nothing to do. I will not be buying Greenport t-shirts. I’m not the customer,” he said, insisting that tourists are vital to the community’s long-term interests.

Another veteran short-term rental owner who spoke to The Suffolk Times about the red letter insisted that their name not be used.

“I think when people’s rights are actively threatened and you have an atmosphere where people are using AI [artificial intelligence] in the village to turn on their neighbors and encourage neighbors to turn on each other – that’s not really conducive to going on the record for an activity that is completely legal,” the person said.

“What really offended me is that I built my business and my life around the letter of the village code. I took the village code into account in everything we did, and when we rent, we rent within the spirit of the code.”

The homeowner said the scarlet letter was perceived as “hostile at best and frivolous at worst.”

“This village has a history of boarders and legal short-term rentals are a modern extension of that.”

Mr. Stuessi himself owns a rental property in the village that he rents out to long-term tenants. Earlier this year, he said in an interview that he aims to move his mother into the place when her house sells.

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