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Posted on 01 June 2012

Being a part of “the Hamptons” — and we shudder even to write that phrase — comes with some very obvious realities.

Some, like the almost obsessive accounting about the cost of lobster salad as if it were a measure of the worldwide economy, are hilarious rituals that remind locals our communities are viewed very differently in summer than they are during the other nine months of the year.

Other realities, like the beautiful natural world that surrounds us, our beaches, our bays, our farms — the impetus for our popularity in the first place — reminds us how lucky we are to be here and why we fight to remain.

But then there are other realities that are sometimes hard to stomach. These are mostly tied to our tight-knit community being branded for profit — a blessing and a curse as we all benefit in some measure by the robustness of our economy, which is largely supported by the very people who coined us “the Hamptons” instead of recognizing us as individual places.

One of the most obvious ways in which people have profited from this branding is through real estate. It’s an industry that supports us entirely and is largely to be credited with the reason the national recession stung, but failed to do substantive long term damage on the East End.

Real estate has not only provided us with a buffer, but also has given local families an opportunity to rent their homes during the season. Many stay with relatives or friends or travel to less expensive parts of the country and make enough money off a seasonal rental to survive the rest of the year without a huge financial burden hanging over their heads.

It has been and remains an important tool; and we do believe in the rights of property owners who are invested and a part of this community to share that with others, even for a profit.

But in addition to renting out a house for the entire summer, another reality that makes a lot of financial sense is to rent real estate by the week, weekend or even by the day as a business. By hosting weddings and special events, property owners are able to charge a premium over already inflated rental prices in the summer by allowing that special day to occur at their home.

Those who do this sparingly, with the proper permits and neighborly consideration, are doing this the right way. However, we take issue with those landlords who have turned single-family residences into full-fledged commercial operations with little concern for the impacts this could — and often does — have on a community.

We believe in order to protect our neighborhoods in Sag Harbor it is critical for the village board of trustees to explore a rental law that prohibits that kind of operation. At the same time they should preserve a responsible rental system that is a critical part of the real estate industry, and our local economy.

With no statutes in place, save a mass gathering permit requirement for large, non-profit events, we believe the Village of Sag Harbor has left itself open to those who would turn single-family homes into essentially a catering hall. We suggest the village immediately begin exploring protective code provisions, including limiting the number of short-term rentals — those under two-weeks — to just a handful per household per year in order to ensure our residential communities remain just that … residential.

Otherwise, what is owning or renting a home in “the Hamptons” really worth?

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