The Falls City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday night to impose its third moratorium in less than two years on new permits for short-term, vacation and transient rental properties (STRs) in the city.
The new moratorium extends a ban on new permits that was originally approved on June 1 and had been set to expire on Thursday. The latest moratorium will run for 180 days and will expire on March 22, 2022.
The resolution to continue the moratorium was a late addition to the council’s meeting agenda and was added over the objection of Council Member William Kennedy.
The resolution, sponsored by Council Chair Kenny Tompkins and Member Frank Soda, indicated the process of rewriting the city’s ordinances that govern the operation of STRs could not be completed by the Sept. 16 deadline of the previous moratorium.
In January 2020, the council imposed a moratorium on the issuance of new STR permits to allow for a review and update the current short-term, vacation and transient rental ordinance. Members of the council and Mayor Robert Restaino said at that time that the review was necessary to address an explosion in the number of applications filed in the last two years by property owners seeking to operate short-term tourist rentals.
But a new STR ordinance, proposed by the mayor, failed to be enacted in September 2020, after both the Niagara County and Niagara Falls Planning Boards declined to recommend it. The Falls City Council was unable to muster the votes required to override the planning boards’ objections.
The June moratorium, proposed by Tompkins, had been touted as necessary to make another attempt to update the city’s STR ordinance. In July, Tompkins and Council Member John Spanbauer unveiled their version of a new STR law.
The amendments to the city’s zoning code largely rewrite the current ordinance that governs STRs.
In the failed 2020 proposal, Restaino sought to increase the regulations of short-term, tourist and transient rental properties. The mayor’s proposal would have imposed limits on where short-term rentals could operate, required new permits for current STRs, added yearly fees and inspections and required operators to collect the same taxes that currently apply to hotels, motels and bed and breakfast inns.
The Tompkins-Spanbauer ordinance incorporate many of the mayor’s proposals. They include yearly fees and inspections, with the fees to be used to hire a specialized STR compliance service provider or vendor to manage the new regulations.
Operators would also be required to collect the same taxes that currently apply to hotels, motels and bed and breakfast inns and it establishes limits on where STRs can be located.
However, the new ordinance would allow for a yearly review of those limits by the City Council and grandfather current operators whose STRs are located outside the proposed boundaries. The boundaries are also close to double in size to those that were previously proposed.
The proposed STR zone would be bounded by 19th Street, Buffalo Avenue. the state park, Findlay Drive and Ontario Avenue.
The proposed new ordinance has not yet been submitted to the county and city planning boards for review and approval. It will also require a public hearing before the City Council.