Change Is Gonna Come

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman discusses the new ways in which citizen advisory committees will be interacting with the town board, and the new rules they’re being asked to abide by. Independent/Desirée Keegan

The Southampton Town Board is in agreement with many of the proposed amendments to the town’s annual and seasonal rental permit code, including an online application fee, that were unveiled a week ago.

Southampton’s Public Safety and Emergency Management Administrator Steven Troyd said the code updates would streamline the process for the town and applicants, as he discussed a checklist system that would require as few attachments as possible with the town board on Thursday, January 31.

As part of the updates, there would no longer be a need to provide a carter service contract with the application, nor inspection for application renewals. This was something Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera took issue with.

“We need to ensure safety with these renewals,” she said, before being told the sworn statement of unchanged conditions gives the town the right to verify conditions, especially when dealing with repeat offenders.

“We can’t just walk into a house,” Troyd said. “We’d need probable cause for search.”

Besides the $200 biannual fee, a $50 inspection fee is also anticipated. Troyd asked to the board eliminate the need for a rental permit after the Building Department approves an accessory apartment, but the board rejected that proposal.

Other code changes board members agreed on are rental permits being necessary for apartments in commercial buildings, condominiums, co-ops, and accessory income properties to ensure safety — especially in those above commercial buildings. The transient seasonal rental period minimums would be reduced from two weeks to one, and the code would prohibit guests from being at a seasonal rental property between 1 and 6 AM. The new code would also include a pool maintenance contract.

“They must be professionally maintained,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said of pools and spas. “In the hotel business I have to check the chemistry three times a day. . . As things get more transient, I think we need to protect the renters a little bit.”

Troyd said there was one case last year where a young girl suffered chemical burns after jumping into the pool of a seasonal rental after the previous tenants threw too many chemicals into a pool prior to leaving.

Preston Scalera said she doesn’t see a need to remove a four-car limit outside rentals, but Schneiderman suggested it would help with aesthetics. With the town moving to a one-car per bedroom rule, the pair debated the need for a carter contract and providing seasonal rental neighbors with the name and contact information of a property owner to call if issues were to arise with renters.

Preston Scalera said she did not want to reduce requirements for issues that have posed an enforcement problem in the past. “I see that you want to streamline things, and I get that, and I appreciate that,” she said, “but in terms of economy of scale or just balancing it out, the harms that it can cause is so heavily weighted on the one end if something goes wrong. Anything less than what we’re doing now as a policy I don’t think is good for administration.”

She said she fears a rise in property maintenance notices of violation, and does not want to pit neighbor against neighbor should there be code violation issue with tenants.

“We don’t want to invite neighbors to think that they can do something about the issues — we are the people that bring the violations,” Preston Scalera said. “We’re delegating our responsibilities onto the neighbors.”

The definition of family would also be changed in the rental permit code to make the town code uniform. There is a four-person max for individuals not living as a family, but five or more are allowed if the unrelated individuals can prove they’re living as a traditional family. The name and contact information of a person who will respond within one hour of a reported issue at a seasonal rental property will also be required to be given to the town, and a rental agreement provided upon request during the summer seasons. The code enforcement office and the town are also looking into the legality of revoking seasonal rental permits should violations persist. Once a concrete, agreed-upon list of changes is finalized, the town will hold a public hearing to put the proposed code changes into effect.

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