“Wedding” House Prompts Rental Limit Discussion

Posted on 31 May 2012

A number of parties at what is listed as a rental property on Lincoln Street in Sag Harbor has sparked the ire of neighbors. Members of the Ninevah Beach community have reached out to Sag Harbor Village over the course of the last month in an effort to stop what they believe is a commercial enterprise in their tight knit, private beach community.

Following a wedding on May 9 which included a ceremony on the private community beach in Ninevah, residents began calling the Sag Harbor Village Building Department in an effort to find some kind of recourse.  One resident — under the condition of anonymity — said over 100 people attended that wedding. The concern, added another resident, is that the property is being rented on a weekly basis, and in the off-season is listed as being available for a weekend rental. This has led some in the Ninevah community to question whether this house is actually a business rather than a single-family residence.

The property in question — 53 Lincoln Street — is owned by real estate developer Paul Fried. It is zoned residential and commercial enterprise is prohibited at the property under village code.

Fried did not return calls for comment.

According to Sag Harbor Village Attorney Denise Schoen, outside of ensuring property owners adhere to the village’s requirements for a mass gathering permit for events that may exceed 75 people, there is little in village code to protect residents from houses that are being rented out by the week, weekend or even on a nightly basis.

On May 22, Sag Harbor Building Inspector Tim Platt sent a letter to Fried noting he has received “several complaints” regarding the use of 53 Lincoln Street for large events. Platt noted the village has been given addresses of websites promoting the Sag Harbor property as being available for weddings and other special events.

“Section 85-3 of the Sag Harbor Village code requires that a written permit be issued for any special event where attendance may exceed 75 persons,” writes Platt. “Please further note that §85-7(A)(1)(a) states that no permit shall be issued where such an event is largely for private profit.”

“Should you wish to have an event (such event not being for private profit) in the future that may be attended by more than 75 persons, you must first obtain a special event permit from the Board of Trustees,” continued Platt in his correspondence.

Fried is by no means alone in renting his property on a short-term basis or for events.

On the popular website, Vacation Rentals by Owner, or vrbo.com, there are over 60 rentals listed in the greater Sag Harbor area, many offering weekly rentals of these luxury abodes or small cottages for anywhere between $2,000 to $15,000. Some property owners also offer weekend and even nightly rates.

The house at 53 Lincoln Street is advertised on that website as being able to host “3 day wedding events, service and reception.” In season, according to the listing, the property is available on a weekly, monthly and seasonal basis. Off-season, it is available for $1,700 per night.

While Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said he would not want to deter residents from being able to rent their houses reasonably, if a home is being used commercially as solely a rental property that is a problem, he said.

“In the case where we are dealing with what is essentially a commercial use, we will do everything we can to stop it,” said Gilbride. “I would hope people can be respectful of their neighbors rather than use their homes as a business enterprise similar to a catering hall. We have to keep a close eye on this and go from there.”

According to East Hampton Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, that municipality does have a rental law in place to ensure property owners can still rent their homes, but only in a manner that protects neighboring residences.

Overby said in East Hampton, residents are only allowed to rent their houses for less than two weeks twice a year.

“Otherwise, it can become a business,” she said, adding residents may rent their homes for more than two weeks at any time.

“It’s the in-and-out that we worry about,” said Overby.

According to Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, Southampton Town also has restrictions in place outside of its mass gathering permit requirements. In Southampton, the town code prohibits rentals of less than one month and requires homeowners get a rental permit.

“To do that, you also have to show your house is up to code,” added Scarlato. “A lot of the hazards involved in the rental market involves multi-family rentals. A lot of the time, it is the safety issues we are worried about rather than the big party houses, but the law still rings true for those as well.”

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