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After another public hearing session Amy Friend withdrew her application for a special permit to use her home for small group events.  She had hoped for permission to allow events up to 50 people but the Village of Lansing Planning Board said that would be a commercial use in a residential zone, and would therefore not be allowed.  Airbnb guests who had already held parties at the home spawned complaints from neighbors at a number of previous Planning Board meetings.  That is leading to new legislation that will specifically define and regulate 'short term rentals', the term used to describe to Airbnb and similar rentals.  Planning Board members cautioned Friend that more complaints could result in stricter constraints on such rentals or even jeopardize Airbnb's right to operate at all in the Village.

"The result of the fact that you have had parties at your house and that your neighbors have complained about it is that the entire Village is shortly going to have legislation not allowing that," warned planning board member Carolyn Greenwald. "So if you wait a year the answer is definitely no.  And there might not even be Airbnb allowed, depending on how mad people are.  So I would definitely not let anybody have a party between now and when that legislation passes.  Because it's going to harm everybody's Airbnb, not just yours."

Friend said that she and her wife Valerie are trying to be good neighbors, while also trying to use their home to earn enough money to offset rising property taxes.  She noted that her assessment was raised by $10,000 this year.  She said they are rated as 'super hosts' on Airbnb, the best rating hosts are given based on customer ratings, and that they screen their guests.  She said that one neighbor in particular has it out for them, seemingly challenging the complaints he has brought to the Planning Board.  But board members noted that other people have also complained about noise, light, drunkenness, and issues stemming from parties 'guests' have held at the house.

Friend argued that Airbnb leaves it up to the host what can happen on a property.  But Planning Board Chair Lisa Schleelein said it doesn't matter what Airbnb allows in local jurisdictions.

"Our code doesn't allow for events," said Schleelein. "Municipalities are all grappling with this.  The nature of our community, as a college town and a tourist community... we understand this is kind of part of the culture.  But to a limit.  I think we're getting beyond some of the limits, frankly, at your home. The fact that you're often not on site... it's quite different when the host is not on site."

Board members said they have no problem with the use of the home as an Airbnb, but that holding events there does not fit the definition of 'home occupation' activities, but are, instead, a commercial use, which is prohibited by Village zoning ordinance.  However they responded somewhat positively to the possibility of holding yoga classes or classes related to Valerie's tarot reading business that would involve participation by the homeowners.  Greenwald suggested withdrawing the current application and coming back with a more modest one that would request allowing such classes.

Schleelein noted that she learned quite by accident that her own neighbor runs an Airbnb, but said the only reason she knew was that she found it in Airbnb's listings when she was curious about local listings.  She stressed that neighbors should not even be aware that a home is being rented, at least not because of activities taking place in these homes.

"I think if you wanted to have yoga classes it might be considered," Schleelein said. "The problem is when are aware.  I think you have to be very mindful of that.  People are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their property."

Neighbor Sean Dolloway, who has brought complaints to the Planning Board a number of times this year, told the board that his insurance agent is recommending he buy more insurance because of guests who might wander onto his property and then sue him if something happens.

Friend took the advice of the Board and withdrew her application, saying she would return with another application to allow classes.  But the damage may be done because the complaints have put Airbnbs on Village officials' radar.  Two years ago the Village of Cayuga Heights struggled with a similar controversial change to their zoning law. While it does allow Airbnb-type activity, it restricts the amount of time a home or part of a home may be rented, requires documentation, a permit that costs $125 per year, and imposes penalties for violations.

"I would say no more events," Schleelein said.

She said the board will have to grapple with the issue in recommending zoning legislation that deals more specifically with how Airbnbs are allowed to operate in the Village. "It may not be to everyone's liking," she warned. "I don't think a special permit is applicable in this situation for what you are suggesting at the moment."

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