YOUNGSTOWN - With Western New York's proximity to two lakes, and the Niagara River, homes along the waterfront are plentiful.
But what are the rules for renting out these homes?
The Town of Porter in Niagara County has found itself caught in the middle of a waterfront dispute between neighbors on Lake Road, along picturesque Lake Ontario, that may prompt the town to create new zoning ordinances to regulate such rentals.
Town attorney Michael Dowd said the town doesn't want to stop people from renting out their homes, but wants to regulate how it is done so that neighbors are not inconvenienced.
"We're not looking for a fight. We are looking for a solution. People rent their homes out on the waterfront all across the country," said Dowd. "We want to be proactive and find some regulations that satisfy everybody."
Mark V. Lynch, of 2089 Lake Road, says that the Town of Porter has failed to follow its own zoning laws by allowing three lakefront properties, owned by Lakeview Motel owners Christine and Wally Nowacki, to be used as rental cottages.
The Lakeview Motel across the street is not an issue in the argument. The properties in question are being marketed online as Youngstown Lakeside Cottages, a total of four cottages, including one over a garage, on three properties along Lake Ontario at 2087, 2085 and 2053 Lake Road.
Lynch said he and his sister Patricia Lynch, who lives at 2091 Lake Road have had their property values lowered by "transient hotel guests" and a "barrage of strangers" over the past four years.
The Lynches met with Dowd and Supervisor Merton Wiepert and Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer Roy Rogers to present 81 pages of documentation. Their contention is that the town code clearly does not allow motel activity in a Waterfront Residential Zone.
Christine Nowacki, owner of the cottages, said Rogers gave them the go-ahead to start renting out their three waterfront properties. She said she and her husband make sure their guests follow the rules and noise ordinances.
"We are not doing anything different than a whole slew of other people are doing all along this lake," said Nowacki.
Dowd said the town understands the Lynches' concerns, but there also must be consideration for those who rent out single-family homes.
He said they have asked their zoning and planning boards to put regulations in place to make sure residents are not unduly annoyed by those people that are renting neighboring houses, while also not restricting the ability for people to use their houses. The regulations the town creates could serve as a model for other waterfront communities, he said.
"We are looking for some reasonable regulations that will satisfy everybody - not just these two neighbors, but anybody in the town that wants to engage in this type of activity," said Dowd. "While (a neighbor dispute) might be driving this to some degree, the town is going to look at this as a town-wide issue that needs to be resolved."
He said if there had been regulations the Nowakis would have had to go to the zoning and planning boards, which would regulate that activity.
Nowaki said she did not take their plans to a zoning or planning board.
"A lot of people just get a permit and put up a house or update a house, but what they do with it afterwards is not regulated and we don't know about it. That's why we want to be proactive," said Dowd.
He said the Town Board will hold a work session in the near future to look at issues such as registering rental property, reasonable hours, limiting the number of guests, limiting off-street parking and, "making sure what goes on in a single-family home is what you would expect in a single-family home." He said they would like to have some new regulations in place by the spring.
"The whole thing is something new for us," said Wiepert, who said Zoning Board, rather than the Town Board, has taken the lead on the issue.