Milo lakers want quiet

John Christensen

Updated to correct the identity of a property owner.

A group of Keuka Lake residents are pushing the Town of Milo to enact a noise ordinance.

Complaining mostly of the noise and boorish behavior of seasonal renters on the lake, these residents say a noise ordinance would give the Yates County Sheriff’s Office more firm ground to stand on to bring such situations under control.

While the residents are seeking a town-wide ordinance, those lodging complaints are lakeside residents.

Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike spoke to the board and the 19 members of the public about the difficulties in handling noise cases under New York Penal Law. He said the YCSO responded to 101 noise complaints throughout the county in 2011. Only nine were in Milo. While most were resolved amicably, there are sometimes continued problems that are difficult to address under the penal law. He said that disorderly conduct can only be charged if the noise is made from a public space.

Harassment can only be charged if the noise is intended to annoy an individual, is repeatedly done, and if the victim is willing to sign a complaint. Criminal nuisance can only be charged if it inconveniences or annoys a considerable number of people, which for some reason has been legally defined as seven.

To make noise complaints actionable, Spike has drafted a noise ordinance, modeled on similar laws in other communities, for the town to consider. It defines “unreasonable noise” and prohibited acts in “the hours of repose” that he and his deputies would have the power to enforce. Milo Code Enforcement Officer Tony Validzic has drafted another version that takes some specifics of Milo into consideration.

Milo Town Justice John Symonds spoke in favor of keeping things as they are, saying that the NY Penal is sufficient and “in effect 24/7.” To some degree, he disagreed with Spike on how the harassment law can be interpreted and enforced, but did agree that the complainant must be willing to sign the complaint.

One of the more vocal proponents of the law is Ned Rubin, who claims to have had numerous situations where the peace of his neighborhood has been disturbed, and on one occasion, had his life threatened by “five Marines” when he confronted them about the noise.

Ironically, the rental property Rubin is complaining about is owned by his own brother, Harry Rubin, who lives out of state.

Resident Bill Lang spoke of how ineffective and unwilling a deputy was in dealing with a noise complaint he made.

 Julie Engel claimed she has seen renters walking up and down her road “smoking their crack pipes.”

Nancy Roselli said the level and repetition of disturbances were different now than in years past. Tim Dunn, a retired Irondequoit police officer, brought that town’s seven-page noise ordinance.

Before the meeting, Yates County Legislator Robert Schwarting, a lakeside Milo resident, circulated an e-mail telling “friends and neighbors on the lake that the Town of Milo will be hearing from the public.” He said that while he doesn’t like more laws, he wants this one. If he confronts a renter directly, he already feels threatened, and if he swears out a complaint, he would have to take a day off from work to appear in court. His wife, Carol, says the problem would simply arise again, since there are new renters every week. Schwarting owns lake rental property and says he is one of the few landlords who enforces the terms of the rental contract, but many will not. He says they want the rental money but want to be left alone when it comes to addressing any problems with their renters’ behavior.

Contacted Tuesday morning for a comment, Lynn Thurston of Finger Lakes Premier Properties, one of the rental property management companies in the area, said the company has policies regarding courtesy to neighbors.

She said the company has enforced its policy that disruptive guests are asked to leave without a refund. She also said the company contacts neighbors advising them that the property next door will be rented, and gives the neighbors information on how to contact the company if problems arise.

She also supports the addition of a local noise ordinance. “We think ordinances that are in place are really helpful,” she said.

Another local company, Finger Lakes Getaways, has the same policy, according to its website.

Milo board member Gene Spanneut said speaking directly with the property owner where such disturbances repeatedly occur should be a parallel course of action for the town. Member Jim Harris believes many renters think, “We’ve paid $3,000 to $6,000 for this week, and we’ll do whatever we want.”

Supervisor Leslie Church says that for any ordinance to be enforced by the Sheriff’s Office, it must be approved by the county legislature. She said Jerusalem has such an ordinance, but it was not approved by the county.

Legislator Mark Morris, also a Milo lakeside resident, says the county did not want to take the decision away from the towns.  A survey of other town supervisors was suggested to possibly establish a county-wide ordinance, making enforcement easier for deputies and more uniform in border areas.

The board took no official action.

Questions remain about how this would effect businesses that border residential areas and entertain beyond the hours of repose, and about special private functions such as wedding receptions and graduation parties. Will these be allowed only by seeking a special permit from the town? The list of exemptions must be examined closely.

In other business:

• The survey on hydrofracking is being finalized, and a 14-day response period was approved. It should be ready for mailing by the end of the month.

• A resolution to override the property tax cap as a precautionary measure, will be introduced next month.

• A date for an informational meeting on the Comprehensive Plan will be set at next month’s meeting.

• Keuka Lake Assoc. Chairman Bill Laffin says the owner of the old icehouse dock near the head of the outlet turns out to be New York State.