Some 300 people, many toting water bottles labeled with "Stop the Rental Registry," stuffed into the American Legion in Amagansett on Thursday night to regale the East Hampton Town Board with a mix of excoriations, pleas and applause for their proposal for a rentals property registration requirement.
The broad majority of the crowd appeared decidedly against the proposal.
Many trumpeted fears that the registry was burdensome, intrusive, economically harmful and constitutionally flawed.
Some said that the $250 registration fee was unnecessary or unjustified and was just the town scrounging for additional revenue.
Others seemed to acknowledge that what they feared was that the registry would be a tool for the reining in one-week rentals, which they said are now the back bone of summer rentals and should be legal. Town code allows just two rentals per season of less than two weeks.
"The vacation market has evolved greatly, most families don't rent for the entire season anymore," said Eric Kauffman, whose family owns multiple rental properties. "They don't have the ability to afford any more than one week. Other seaside resort areas have found a way to allow...weekly vacation rentals while maintaining peace in their neighborhoods."
Those who celebrated the proposal said the law was reasonable and necessary to protect neighborhoods from overcrowding, unruly share-houses and unsafe conditions. Some also painted critics as lawbreakers looking to maintain the status quo that allows them to skirt the town's existing rental requirements.
The town has said that the rental registry would streamline the enforcement and help its ordinance officers rein in overcrowded and share-house rentals.
"Our community's cry for relief has been ignored by those who rent illegally," said Frank Riina. "When owners rent, they are also renting our community. Opponents to the registry say it will cause economic harm, that the paperwork is burdensome. That is a false narrative designed to scare people. In the towns that have [rental registries] rental activity continues to be robust. The paperwork takes minutes to complete."
Representatives of the Amagansett and East Hampton-Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committees and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk spoke in favor of the registry.
The town board took no action on the rental registry legislation on Thursday night. As proposed, the registration requirement would require homeowners who want to rent their house either seasonally or year-round, would have to fill out a two-page form that describes their size and arrangement of their house and certifies that it meets basic fire and safety codes. Each time a new tenant were to occupy the residence, the landlord would have to submit a notification form.