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Another Voice: Zoning change in Porter threatens neighborhood peace

By Patricia Lynch

Short-term rentals in Grand Island and the Town of Porter, as reported in The Buffalo News, continue to present town boards and the communities they represent with zoning challenges, threatening the security and quality of life in otherwise peaceful residential neighborhoods.

In its Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. ruling upholding zoning, the U.S. Supreme Court stated, “A nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place – like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.”

This concept is important to every resident in Porter these days because Porter is changing its zoning laws to allow short-term rentals (the pigs) in any district where a single-family residence is permitted (the parlor).

Why this, why now? Because our family for the last four years has asked the town to enforce its zoning laws and stop the operation of a motel business in a residential zone prohibiting it.

Porter declared the buildings used in this instance to be single-family residences – not a “motel.” The new law will allow this motel to continue to operate as short-term rentals.

In spite of all the information, testimony and proof of commercial activity in these buildings, presented by us and our lawyers to the Planning, Zoning and Town boards, Porter has turned a deaf ear as it maneuvers around zoning definitions in favor of business encroachment on the residential landscape.

One can only wonder what benefit is accruing to the town that it would allow a business to blatantly circumvent existing zoning laws and, ignoring residents’ concerns, would simply rewrite the code so that the existing business and its years of violations can be made retroactively acceptable.

The practical implications are clear. Besides the undetermined strain put on the shore by a septic system now meant to support a large population of short-term renters, the business, in this case, has demonstrated how other legitimate concerns are now able to be met: complaints about late-night noise; vacationers wandering drunk through your yard at all hours; crowds occupying the relatively small dwellings next door.

You are not only up against the encroachments of an out-of-place business growing stealthily beside you, but also an unresponsive Town Board no longer protecting your zone as originally reflected in zoning laws (meant to keep “a right thing” out of “a wrong place” per the Supreme Court’s “pig in the parlor” statement).

Porter apparently has become amenable to letting the pig into the parlor.

If the town continues on this path, what other pigs will be free to wallow in the parlor, with this open door?

Not a lesson they should set themselves up for. Aren’t they smarter than this?

A lesson for all towns grappling with these issues.

Patricia Lynch lives in Youngstown.

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