The Village News: Editorials

August 12, 2015

Bellport Village Bed & Breakfasts, #2


EditorialOn Monday, August 10, 2015, a Village Board Work Session was held in the Community Center on Bell Street in Bellport Village. Between 25 and 30 people attended rather than the more usual zero to two. The meeting lasted about three hours, but the portion regarding the new Bed & Breakfast Ordinance took about an hour of that time. Here is what I think you need to know...

1. It seems there was a procedural error (they made a mistake) in the way the new Ordinance was brought up for a vote the first time at the July Village Board meeting, so it’s going to have to be brought up again and voted on a second time at another Village Board meeting. No mention was made of when that might be.

2. The Village Attorney said that no changes in the Ordinance were planned and the same Ordinance brought up for a vote the first time would simply be brought up again to be voted on for a second time. Being that it was passed unanimously the first time, it’s reasonable to assume the Village Board will again pass this new Ordinance when it again comes up for a vote.

3. At one point in the meeting the Mayor asked how many of those attending were in favor of B&B’s in Bellport Village. Only one hand went up and that was from a woman who has already indicated that she would like to open a B&B in the Village herself.

4. At one point I tried to ask if any of the Village Board members had any interest in opening a B&B in the Village themselves and their reaction to my question was very strong claiming that I had insulted them by asking the question. I asked the question because I had heard from more than one source that this might be the case and I thought the simplest way to put it to rest was to ask. Bottom line, a few said no, the rest didn’t answer.

5. In numerous interviews given by Mayor Fell to the press and TV stations, he has indicated that the reason for the new B&B Ordinance was to promote “Tourism” in Bellport Village. In fact in the Ordinance itself, under “Purpose and Intent” the first thing it says is, “The Village Board recognizes that tourism is an important factor in promoting the economic welfare of the Incorporated Village of Bellport and that it is in the best interests of the Village to ensure the continued growth of tourism trade. The Village Board also recognizes that many tourists prefer lodging accommodations in residential settings, which often offer more personalized services than those provided in motels or hotels.”

At the Work Session, the Mayor seemed to deny that this is the purpose of the new Village Ordinance or that he had ever said the new Ordinance was about Tourism. Instead he claimed that the new Village Ordinance was needed to allow and regulate B&B’s in Bellport Village. I’ll come back to this point in a minute.

6. According to the B&B Ordinance, as written, and the Village Attorney, this new Ordinance will require that the owner of the B&B personally reside full time at the B&B they are operating. We have received at least one opposing legal opinion stating, “...the new law requires the owner of the property to both occupy and operate the business. Under New York law, conditions of a special permit cannot dictate how a business is to be operated. This provision should be removed.”

Now, I don’t know which attorney is right, I’m not an attorney, but when I asked the Village Attorney if this could be determined before the new law is enacted, he said it would be up to the courts to decide after the fact. That means we could end up with absentee owners or even corporations operating B&B’s in the Village if the Village Board and the Village Attorney are wrong. Do you want to take that chance?

7. I hope you’re still with me because now we get to the interesting stuff!

The Village Attorney clearly stated that the Village Codes operate on a “Permissive” system where the Code Book indicates what is permitted or, what you can do. If the Code Book doesn’t specifically say you can do something, it is against the law to do it. Please read that last sentence again.

For instance, the Village Code clearly spells out what can be done in a residentially zoned area of the Village. It doesn’t say you can’t run a business in a residential area. It simply doesn’t mention businesses and by not doing so, it means it’s illegal to run a business in a residential area of the Village. Got that?

So, because the Village Code, as it is now on the books, doesn’t mention Bed & Breakfast businesses, it means they are illegal in the Village of Bellport. You can’t now run a B&B legally in the Village.

But, the Village Board says there are many B&B’s operating in the Village illegally now. Why aren’t they doing anything about it? They say it’s because no one has complained and if no one complains, they won’t do anything. You can’t make this stuff up, but wait, it gets better.

I then asked the Village Board if it’s now illegal to operate a B&B in the Village, but there are lots of people doing it, how will enacting a new Village Ordinance that tries to regulate B&B’s cut back on these illegal B&B’s? Won’t it still depend on whether or not residents complain? The Board never really answered that question.

So, regardless of which side of this issue you are on, when the Village Board again announces that they will be considering and voting on the new Bed & Breakfast Ordinance, come out to the meeting and let the Village Board hear from you. Better yet, send them an email now. At the meeting they indicated that they had heard “loud and clear” from the residents by the email messages they had received regarding Bed and Breakfasts. Let them hear from you.

Please Click Here for a copy of the proposed B&B Ordinance as published by Bellport Village.



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Larry Sribnick

Larry Sribnick