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Neighbors complain ‘tourist homes’ ruin Grand Island quality of life

The people renting out these residences on Grand Island call them “tourist homes,” places where renters can enjoy a week or so of quiet life on Grand Island.

Their neighbors call them “party houses,” where obnoxious visitors ruin the quality of life on Grand Island.

“They’re loud,” Peg White told town leaders Tuesday evening during a public hearing. “They’re not genteel neighbors.”

She was among nearly 100 Grand Island residents who attended a public hearing Tuesday evening, most voicing opposition to a proposed amendment to a law on tourist homes. The amendment would allow already existing tourist homes on Grand Island to continue to operate, provided they comply with an application process and strict guidelines.

The current law, passed last year, outlaws tourist homes and contains a sunset clause. Operators of the homes currently in use on

the Island have until Sept. 23 to close the properties.

White, whose home is sandwiched between two short-term rental properties, said her family endures taunts and comments from tenants of the properties, and routinely puts up with music and motorcycles.

White, who grew emotional while speaking, described her daughters being cat-called while running on West River Road by occupants of the homes, and said she no longer felt comfortable riding her bike because of the tenants in the properties.

“I can assure you that these rental properties do not enhance the community,” she said. “In fact, the destroy residential districts.”

Resident after resident condemned the “party homes” as loud, obnoxious and a hindrance to the quality of life on the island. The hearing ran for nearly two and a half hours.

Several property owners also spoke during the hearing.

Vince Ciffa, who owns several properties on Grand Island, said he rents to families who are coming together on the Island because of its location. He argued in favor of the amendment.

“Everyone is wondering who’s coming into these vacation homes,” he said, bringing up Florida and Ellicottville as popular vacation home destinations. “You better look in the mirror. If you want to be with family, and cook and sit down and talk to your family in a private environment, you’re going to a vacation home.”

In explaining the proposed law, Supervisor Nathan D. McMurray said he was trying to balance the interests of residents with those of the property owners.

“The reason we have these hearings is to get more feedback from the community,” he said.

No action was taken on the proposed amendment during the meeting, and the board will discuss it further. McMurray, bringing up his training as a lawyer at the end of the meeting, said he was trying to avoid litigation over the law, on either side of the debate.

Acknowledging that the majority of people at the hearing were against the amended law, McMurray said he heard what the residents want going forward.

“I think where this is heading is further litigation between residents of the town,” he said. “That makes me upset. But, so be it.”