“All the nongazillionaires, we need this money from renting out our homes,” said Kathryn Klenawicus, who says she supports her disabled husband by renting their house out in the Heights each August, while living in their guest quarters. “But we definitely have some people here, they are of a certain financial stature, and they really want to turn Shelter Island into their own private gated retirement community.”
This month, Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall of Federal District Court in Brooklyn dismissed most of the major claims in the lawsuit. Even with a trial on the remaining issues pending, the town seems willing to make some changes.
Shelter Island officials are considering an amendment to the law that would make it illegal to rent a house for fewer than 14 days more than six times a year, and would require all rental houses to be registered with the town. Punishments for violators would start at $250 and could rise to $5,000 for repeat offenders, with up to 30 days of jail time.
In response to complaints that the law was overly onerous on families who need rentals to make a living, the town has proposed a “homesteaders hardship” exemption that grants families who earn less than five times the federal poverty line (about $130,000 for a family of four) a license to rent their house out more frequently.
“This is to keep the character of Shelter Island,” Bob DeStefano Jr., the town attorney, said. “It’s a balance. We are trying to allow some of these, without being too restrictive.”
Shelter Island’s neighboring towns have wrestled with similar issues. The Town of East Hampton, which includes the hamlets of Montauk, Wainscott, Springs and Amagansett, has had a rule since 2015 that permits rentals only in 15-day chunks, and only twice a year, and along with Southampton requires rental houses to be registered. In Ocean Beach, on Fire Island, rentals cannot be for less than a week.