ROTTERDAM – Claims of racism were aired during a public hearing held Wednesday to discuss whether the town should place a moratorium on short-term rentals like Airbnbs.
The town is considering the moratorium while it studies possible rules for short-term rentals. The moratorium would also allow the town to discuss the impact of short-term rentals in the town’s comprehensive plan, which is currently being worked on. If passed, anyone violating the moratorium could face a fine and/ or jail time.
“The guests who rent our Airbnbs are 80% here to visit other Rotterdam or local family members or attend events like weddings, graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, spending their holidays and more,” said Glenn Schworm, an owner of Signature Home Buyers, which operates six rentals in Rotterdam. “The other 20% are people traveling here to work in the area.”
He said the town should be as welcoming and a nice place to live, like the town’s sign says.
However, Schworm said some of the guests who have visited have faced racism.
“Guests who stay in our homes through Airbnbs are not scary as our neighbor claims in her first article in The Gazette,” he said.
He said the rental was only in operation for two weeks before Diane Bauland called the town eight times complaining about the property.
“We also discovered she only complained when certain types of guests were there,” he said.
He also mentioned that a Black family staying at a rental raised concerns after a white vehicle drove by filming them.
Bauland denied any prejudice.
“I resent the fact that he’s saying something about prejudice,” she said. “There’s no prejudice here. I came to Rotterdam for a nice place to live where you know your neighbors.”
She said she does fear people staying at the Airbnb on Sunrise Boulevard – next to her home. She said one evening she was awaken to a fight around 1 a.m. on the back porch of the property. The owners of the Airbnb only care about the money they can make, not how it affects her life, she said.
Another neighbor across from her, who only gave the name Ruth, said she fears for Bauland because of the people staying in the Airbnb.
Many other residents raised concerns about the town control over how people use their property if there is nothing illegal going on.
“It’s our houses, it’s our livelihood, it’s our businesses,” said Josh, who’s last name was not clearly stated during the virtual meeting. “I just think it’s total government overreach.”
Some residents said it was the voice of a few making noise over something that shouldn’t be an issue. Ruth McFarland said Airbnbs are nice places to stay and offer families another avenue than just staying in hotels. It’s a place they can share a meal or watch TV together, she said.
She also raised concerns about instituting rules that might affect businesses when many have already been hit hard by COVID.
“We don’t want cancel culture,” she said.
A number of residents also advocated for short-term rentals, saying they bring revenue to the area and great options for families, especially large families.
Schworm offered to reach out to Bauland to see if there was a way to figure out a solution to concerns raised about the Airbnb next to her.
The town will continue discussing the moratorium at its next meeting in May.