Lake Placid is a picture-book village in the Adirondack Mountains offering tourists crisp air, pretty peaks, Winter Olympic sites and, lately, a lot more houses to rent for the weekend.
The rising popularity of short-term rentals on services like Airbnb is alarming residents who fear they're gobbling up so much of the housing market that workers who want to live there are getting frozen out.
"What about the families? They're not here anymore," said longtime resident Zay Curtis. "The neighborhoods are slipping away."
Short-term rentals are surging all over, but they loom larger in smaller resort areas. Since December 2017, the number of Airbnb and Homeaway listings in and around Lake Placid has grown from 555 to 684. As conversions continue, officials are struggling with a contentious question: How do resorts balance neighborhood concerns against the economic benefit of tourists who stay in short-term rentals?
"It fuels the economy here. I'm telling you, if they were to stop vacation rentals, this would be a ghost town," said Sharon Middendorf, a rental owner and part-time resident.
About a third of the housing units in the larger North Elba Town are for vacation or seasonal use, up from about a fifth in 2010, according to a new report commissioned by the village and the town.
The rise of rentals has fueled the same sort of complaints often heard in major cities: noisy parties, trash, overpacked homes. But some residents say they're also taking homes off the market that local workers could buy or lease.
Huda Scheidelman, chairwoman of a group of area rental owners, said affordable housing is a nationwide issue and it is unfair to blame short-term rentals for the local crunch. Operators point out that many rental listings include large, lakeside homes that are out of reach for buyers of modest means.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said local leaders were expected to soon propose a permitting system for short-term rentals that could include a 90-day annual limit for homes not occupied by the owner.
"I think this will begin to calm it down a little bit," Randall said. "It also provides reassurance to those second-home owners that we're not totally pulling the carpet out from underneath them."
If approved, Lake Placid would join a growing list of resort areas tackling the issue.
In South Carolina, the beach resort town Kiawah Island in November amended its short-term rental regulations to, among other things, cap the number of licenses in certain residential districts. The caps, effective in January, ensure that no more than 20% of developed lots in those districts can be used for short-term rentals.
"While being sensitive to the tourism market that we love and appreciate on the island, we also exist to protect the residential character of the island," said Stephanie Braswell, Kiawah Island spokeswoman.
Voters in South Lake Tahoe, California, narrowly approved a ballot measure in 2018 severely restricting short-term rentals in residential areas by 2022. A group of businesses and property owners promptly sued. If the measure stands, it would reduce the number of vacation home rentals from a high of about 1,700 to 300, said former city manager Frank Rush.