When I met my future wife while attending college, I was living in Brooklyn where I was born and raised. Her mother’s family was natives of Southampton. She had spent summers as a child with family on Moses Lane, within proximity to Sacred Heart Church on Montauk Highway. By the time I met her, she was already upset that Southampton had become “too developed.” I had never been anywhere so beautiful. When we moved to the North Fork almost twenty-one years ago, Southampton and areas east had become more developed than when I first saw them, and the North Fork was just being discovered. Out of concern over losing its unique character, the five towns of the Peconic Bay Region took steps to counter it. Its residents approved the sale of bonds to raise money to pay farmers for the development rights to their land in order to avert the proliferation of suburban-type subdivisions. In 2000, residents approved a Peconic Bay Region transfer tax on purchases of most improved and unimproved properties and use the taxes collected to buy properties as well as development rights. The Peconic Land Trust also plays a vital role in preservation, and local governments have regulated subdivisions in order to control development. They also encouraged the agro-business, vineyards, nurseries, and horse farms, which have made the East End a “go to” place and a benefit to local businesses. But, it seems now that the once bucolic, place to get away to “Hamptons” is being challenged by a new occurrence, the recognition of the income potential of home ownership.
It has evolved from why live in my house over the summer when I can rent it out and make a bundle of money, to why not do multi rentals for short stays, and make even more? The fact that this gives rise to violations of health and safety laws associated with overcrowding and other misconduct, seems to pale in comparison to the profit to be gained. Town officials are attempting to combat this recent entrepreneurial phenomenon of “transient rentals” by requiring minimum stays. The incomes of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts are taxed differently, and code requirements are more severe. Real estate brokers, who are licensed professionals, who earn their living in real estate, live locally and contribute to the community, find themselves in competition with the website Airbnb among others. The New York State Attorney General has written a report that condemns their practices as being in violation of law, particularly in New York City. Courts have ruled against landlords and tenants who engage in these unlawful practices.
There is little disagreement that the five towns need affordable rentals in order to provide housing for people who want to live and work here, especially young families who we want and need to survive as a community.
The corrupting influences of Airbnb and others are impossible for our local governments to combat if property owners are determined to put profit over a sense of responsibility to the community. The competing arguments, “I should do whatever I want with my property” as opposed to “the rights of the community to seek what is in its best interest,” are constantly with us.
Note: We’d love to hear the reader’s point of view on East End development.