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Time to get the band back together
February 15, 2019

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Whether you consider it a mission from God - as the Blues Brothers did in the 1980 movie with actors John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd - or a way to relive the glory days, it's time to get the band back together.

What we mean is Lake Placid needs to rebuild its community - not the infrastructure of roads and bridges but its neighborhoods.

The short-term vacation rental regulations proposed by the town of North Elba and the village of Lake Placid have dredged up long-held feelings that Lake Placid has lost its sense of community. Slowly, since the 1980 Winter Olympics, residential neighborhoods that once thrived with family activity morphed into semi-commercial zones as homes were being converted into short-term rental properties for the tourism market.

There are different kinds of short-term rental situations. Let's consider the people.

There are people who still live in their homes and rent out a room or an apartment over a garage for a little extra money, possibly to help pay for the property taxes so they can stay here. Then there are seasonal residents who visit during holidays and the summer months and rent their houses while they are back home. There are families who used to live here and want to keep their properties in the family and rent a house during the times they're not visiting their hometown. Then there are companies or entrepreneurs who live outside the area and have converted houses into rental units simply as a business venture.

Which of these kinds of short-term rentals should be allowed in residential neighborhoods? Certainly not the business venture. In any case - as Jim and Keela Rogers point out in this week's letter to the editor - the town and village should consider the makeup of neighborhoods when drafting their short-term rental regulations.

"Is there any thought of regulations that can limit the number of these short-term rental businesses in our community?" they asked.

Good question. While the reasons named for approving short-term rental regulations - keeping noise down, minimizing overcrowded parking, safety, etc. - are valid and regulations are needed, the proposed regulations are missing the bigger picture - and a bigger opportunity. Perhaps regulations need to cap the amount of short-term rental properties - those that do not have people living on the premises - in residential neighborhoods.

To the village and town boards, we ask you to get the band back together. Approve regulations that have one goal in mind - to rebuild our neighborhoods. Some people think it's too late, but we don't. How can you have a small-town feel when a small town is taken over by short-term rental properties? Lake Placid runs the real risk of becoming just that. When 75 percent of the town's property tax bills are mailed outside the 12946 zip code, you know there's a problem.

The concept of the Adirondack Park - a patchwork of public and private lands within an imaginary Blue Line, encompassing 6 million acres in all, the size of Vermont - relies on the balance between nature and its communities. Lake Placid needs to adopt a similar philosophy; it needs a balance between commerce and its community.

How can a community survive without people? People continue to be pushed out of Lake Placid's neighborhoods. It's time to stop that trend and reverse it. Short-term rental regulations can be a part of that solution if done right, and affordable housing needs to be a part of the fix.

We're confident that town and village officials will do the right thing. After all, they're the leaders of the band, and this is their home, too.

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