To the editor:
We ask the Wilmington Town Board to temporarily pause the distribution of short-term rental (STR) permits until our STR ordinance is updated to reflect the needs and expectations of Wilmington’s residents. The housing shortage is a major issue in the High Peaks region and Wilmington in particular cannot afford to lose even more housing to STRs. A temporary pause in the issuance of permits will give our community time to unite, in a spirit of compromise, around common-sense improvements to our STR regulations.
Make no mistake: Online STR platforms such as Airbnb have changed the game. The explosion of short-term rentals in formerly residential neighborhoods is now a serious problem in popular destinations around the world.
New situations and new problems require new approaches and new solutions. The communities that survive and even flourish in this new terrain will be those that act with an appropriate sense of urgency, before further irreversible damage is done. Unfortunately, Wilmington is far behind the times.
We have the opportunity to learn from Lake Placid’s mistakes. Instead, our leaders seem determined to repeat those mistakes.
Here are some proposals Wilmington should enact as it works to modernize its STR ordinance:
¯ First and foremost, Wilmington should treat businesses as businesses and residences as residences;
¯ Wilmington must require STR operators to pay their fair share in order to ease the property tax burden placed on full-time residents who are merely living in their homes, not operating investment properties as businesses;
¯ Because they are businesses, Wilmington must consider the prospect of a use variance requirement for STRs outside of the commercial center of town;
¯ Wilmington should limit the number of STR permits issued annually;
¯ Wilmington must immediately create a community STR board to ensure that ideas, concerns, questions, and solutions are heard loud and clear.
Tourism is an important part of our economy, but tourism should support and enhance our community, not undermine and detract from it. Unfortunately, in various ways the Adirondack Park is increasingly faced with the negative effects of tourism. In Wilmington, this is manifested by the fact that we have already lost far too many full-time homes, buildable lots, and long-term apartments to a rising tide of STRs. We have no basis to conclude that this harmful trend will not continue.
We ask our elected officials to show us that they are putting our community first by pumping the brakes on the looming distribution of long-term (two-year!) STR permits and immediately embarking upon the possibly difficult, but absolutely necessary, work of modernizing our STR ordinance.
We ask our town board to show us that it is putting the needs of our community first — not with words, but with actions.
We will be watching.
Christina Anderson, Lora Bushy, Sara Duensing and Ben Hobday, Max Eaton, Lynn Fowler, Stephanie Gates, Edward Geserick, Nancy Gonyea, Karissa and Ryan Gray, Laura and Jason Hooker, Beth Kress, Brigette Levitt, Megan and Keith Lyon, Kelly and James Miner, Jessica Mulvey, Terry and Mary Murphy, Joseph Rumble, Zuzka Schaffer, Guy Stephenson, Chelsea Walker, Richard Whitney, Joseph Wichtowski, Pamela Winch, Patricia and Edward Winch, Daniel Winkler, Jeri Wright