Community Concern

LAKEWOOD – The village of Lakewood is divided on short-term rental laws.

On Monday, the Lakewood Village Board held a public hearing to establish rules and regulations pertaining to vacation/short-term rental properties.

Lakewood residents crowded the village hall, causing the meeting to be moved to the Busti Recreational Center to accommodate everyone.

“Short-term (renting), which is considered renting a home for less than 30 days, has been going on in the village of Lakewood for a very long time. In September 2013, it was brought to my attention that there was an issue with one of these rental units that was causing several complaints,” said Mayor David Wordelmann. “In reviewing these complaints we discovered there weren’t any laws in the village that dealt with the subject. In fact, we discovered because we have not addressed this issue in the past, short-term rentals could be interpreted as a commercial use in a residential zone, which would be illegal without a variance. The board also discovered there were many properties across the village that were also being rented on a short-term basis, which meant completely abandoning it was not an option.”

The board ended up using Bemus Point’s short-term rental ordinance as a guide to write their own. The proposal given to the public would have a “no renter” zone which would run from Park Lane to Oakland Avenue. A majority of the public at the meeting came to speak out against this “historic district,” saying that allowing renting in some areas of the village and not in others was unfair.

“Lots of changes have taken place from my realtors’ perspective over the years with respect to these properties,” said Tom Turner, of 33 E. Lake St. Turner owns a home within the “no rentals” district, as well as some rental properties – one of which was set up to be rented weekly. “In the old days, we had tons of corporations. We’ve lost company after company, and job after job. What we have left in this community is vacation home sales and tourism.”

Turner believes the historic district will have a detrimental effect on property values not only on the lakefront, but across the village.

John Rowan owns several homes scattered across Lakewood, many of which he rents. He said this isn’t an issue about renting, it’s an issue about individuals.

“If I wanted some of my buddies from college to come up for a week and give them my house, I’m allowed. They would be able to tear this village apart. (Police Chief John) Bentley wouldn’t be able to handle them,” Rowan said.

He went on to point out that on his way to the public hearing, he was working on his home in the historic district and picked up eight beer cans along the side of the road. Rental season has not started, so it had to be village residents who were responsible, he said.

“If you want to make the law, let’s do it for the whole village,” he said.

However, not everyone agreed with the removal of the historic district, saying that having rentals would degrade the village into a “party city” and a “frat house.”

Linda Swanson, of 2 Vista Way, says she doesn’t want Lakewood to become like Chautauqua Institution, Bemus Point or Jamestown – which she believes have a high number of rentals.

“I paid high taxes all these years to be able to enjoy that quiet. I feel like I had a contract and you had a contract with me to protect my property, and I don’t think we are taking anything away for the enforcement of this overlay,” she said.

Jill Conley, of 7 Winchester Road, feels that the tranquil life she has grown accustomed to is threatened by allowing weekly rentals across the village.

“When we consider what our village will look like in five, 10 or how many years beyond, is it going to become a community of once-dignified homes turned into weekly rentals?” Conley asked.

The Lakewood Village Board seemed to be in favor of allowing rentals across the village. However, they were unsure whether the resolution would need a State Environment Quality Review. Village Attorney Edward Wright was not at the meeting, so the issue was tabled until the next regularly scheduled meeting.