The town of Rotterdam is entertaining the idea of setting a moratorium on short-term rentals. However, the owners of some Airbnb properties here say the move would infringe on their rights as property owners and business owners.
“We’re concerned about the government overreach,” said Glenn Schworm, who owns six short-term rentals in Rotterdam with his wife Amber. “This is a property; we’re not breaking any laws. Matter of fact, we checked, there’s no laws being broken and there’s no code violations being broken.”
The town is holding a hearing Wednesday evening to gather comments from residents about short-term rentals. At a town board meeting on April 14, two residents raised concerns about a short-term rental on Sunrise Boulevard. The Schworms said they own the property in question at 1171 Sunrise Blvd.
Glenn Schworm said they began operating short-term rentals 18 months ago, starting with one right across from their home in Rotterdam.
“We wanted to make sure it was a viable business model and safe and not going to be a pain to the neighborhood,” he said.
He said they ran the rental for six months and once a few kinks were worked out they were ready to go.
“If run correctly it’s a great business model,” he said. “It’s great for the community, it brings people in, they’re friendly.”
Amber Schworm said people have stayed in the properties for events like weddings, graduations, funerals and sporting events. She said they generate money for the economy.
There are 125 short-term rentals in Schenectady County — a handful being in Rotterdam, said Todd Garofano, the executive director of Discover Schenectady.
He said short-term rentals on sites like Airbnb and VRBO pay an occupancy tax, which amounted to $20,000 in revenue for the county last year.
“In addition, those visitors occupying short-term rentals spend money while they’re here at local restaurants, shops, attractions, gas stations, etc.,” he said.
But not everyone is happy with the short-term rentals.
Diane Bauland of Sunrise Boulevard has said she doesn’t feel safe with a short-term rental next to her, but wouldn’t comment on whether she thinks they shouldn’t be in the town altogether.
The Schworms said people fear what they don’t understand.
“These houses aren’t rented to homeless people … it’s not a boarding house where we say, ‘Hey, it’s free, just come on in,’ ” Glenn Schworm said. “It’s not for pimps and hookers. It’s not for anybody that makes you scared. It’s not like a cheap hotel.”
He said the people staying in Airbnbs get rated and he or his wife can check that person’s ratings from staying at other places before they rent to them. The hosts are also rated.
Amber Schworm said they also won’t rent to people who don’t agree to their house rules, which include no smoking and partying in the homes.
Glenn Schworm said this isn’t the first time they have needed to defend their business to municipal officials. He said they spoke to Scotia Village Board members for two hours about the details of what they do.
“We’ve only had two issues and they were early on and they were potential party issues; we nipped them in the bud within 15 minutes to 30 minutes,” he said.
He said that covers an 18-month operating period in which there were over 400 reservations at their various locations.
He said neighbors usually work with them to resolve any issues. That’s not the case with Sunrise Boulevard.
“It’s always when a next-door neighbor just decided they aren’t going to like it and they pitch a fit,” he said.
“We are continuing our dialogue with the community about short-term rentals as we look at whether there is an issue and how to best proceed,” said Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone. “Wednesday’s public hearing is another step in that process. We look forward to hearing from those on both sides of the issue as we gauge the best path forward. Our hope is to have a policy that is best for our town and balances the concerns of homeowners and neighborhoods.”
Glenn Schworm said he has reached out to Tommasone about the issue and has not heard back.
The Schworms said they will be at the public hearing Wednesday. However, Glenn Schworm said if the town decides to go through with a moratorium they are prepared to sue.
“No question about it,” Schworm said. “I’ve already talked to legal counsel; we’ll sue them,” Schworm said. “We [would] believe our Fourth Amendment rights are being violated and we’ll sue them. It’s for principle.”