Candidates Voice Visions For Future

Illustration by Karen Fredericks

The election for mayor is one of the most contentious in the history of East Hampton Village. It follows a nearly three-decade incumbency of previous mayor Paul Rickenbach, Jr., who retired on December 31. His style of governing — preservation of tradition — left some feeling he was not in touch with the times. Known for not being business friendly, East Hampton earned it the nickname “The Village of ‘No.’”

Even Rickenbach’s retirement created controversy, as some voiced concerns that his exit, six months shy of his term’s official end, was announced to sway the result of the upcoming election.

The candidates vying for his seat are Deputy Mayor Barbara Borsack, current Trustee Arthur Graham, and the ex-police chief Jerry Larsen.

Which path will the voters choose?

National Geographic magazine dubbed East Hampton “America’s most beautiful village.” Many believe that’s the result of the love of tradition that guided Rickenbach’s administration.

To help clarify the issues, The Village Preservation Society posted a 15-question list to all eight candidates, the three running for mayor and five for trustee. The organization was founded in 1982 as a “catalytic force in protecting East Hampton’s priceless heritage, and giving voice to village residents.”

With several months before to the election, with voting delayed until September through New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, The Independent is beginning a series breaking down this 45-page document into bite-sized bits. We also plan adding some questions, and hope readers will chime in, too.

Residential neighborhoods feel the impact of frequent short-term rentals via Airbnb, VRBO, and other social media outlets. Village code regulates single-family residence short-term rentals to two two-week periods in any year. Would you use this provision to regulate Airbnb and VRBO? If not, why? If so, how would you enforce this regulation?

Borsack: I am also concerned about this trend, which is basically turning our residential neighborhoods into hotel zoning. I support the creation of a new position in the code enforcement department, which would be focused on scanning short-term rental sites online to find residences that are being used for this purpose. I also support creating an inter-municipal agreement with the town’s rental registry, which would give us yet another tool for compliance, and I have been researching how other communities are dealing with the short-term rental issue. I was recently in Savannah and did some studying there about the process. We are not alone in trying to deal with this issue. I am going to try to find some new approaches to take to our planning and zoning committee to see what else we can do to combat this new trend.

Graham: Protecting the character of our neighborhoods and the peace and quiet of our residents deserve is one of my highest priorities. In May of 2019 I gave the village administrator a list of properties advertised for short-term rent in the Village of East Hampton with the understanding that the homeowners would be sent a letter reiterating the village code on short-term rentals. If we do not regulate this activity, it will only increase, which negatively impacts the residential character of our neighborhoods. I have proposed “tiering” the type of rental and regulating them separately. For example, I would loosen the regulations on owner-occupied and owner-present properties to a limited number of one-week minimum stays, and the owner non-resident properties would have to adhere to the current code. I would also suggest that we piggyback on the town’s rental registry, and have code enforcement inspect the properties at least annually.

Larsen: I am not in favor of allowing short-term rentals. I believe the village code of no less than a 30-day rental, except for two two-week rentals in a year, is acceptable. However, I will raise the fines for these types of violations as a deterrent. Short-term rentals may be disruptive to the neighbors, negatively affect local inns and bed and breakfasts, and negatively affect the local real estate business. I will also be creating an office of tourism and business that will work as a liaison with our local business community. This office will also work with our code enforcement and law enforcement to educate homeowners and locate violators.

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Next week, the candidates answer a question on updating the village’s comprehensive plan. Thoughts? Follow ups? Questions of your own? Send them to [email protected]

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