Weehawken has approved contracts with union and non-union township employees as well as with local police officers. Mayor Richard Turner and the Township Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance ratifying the contracts at its December 7 meeting.
According to Turner, the average increase in the contracts is between three and three and a half percent for the four contracts with employees who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local.
For non-union employees, Turner said it was a four-year catch up. This was because the township hadn’t given any raises for non-union employees in four years. He said for those employees, the increases would be the same percentages.
The council also adopted an ordinance ratifying the police contracts. Turner said the percentages of the increases for officers from the Police Department were “the same that everybody else received.”
Banning Airbnb in Weehawken?
At the December 7 meeting, the council also introduced an ordinance dealing with short-term rentals in the township. Turner said that it “deals with Airbnb,” a vacation rental company, but did not elaborate on the ordinance further.
Weehawken, a waterfront community right on the Hudson River with eye candy views of New York City, is a hot spot for short-term or vacation rentals. As of December 19, there were plenty of listings for short-term rentals on Airbnb, ranging from $92 to $375 and beyond.
The short-term rentals are currently allowed if the rental hosts maintain a permit. That permit must be renewed annually for a small fee, and the host can then offer listings on services like Airbnb and Booking.com.
After that December 7 meeting, Turner told the Hudson Reporter that the ordinance would ban short-term rentals less than 30 consecutive days, but that the township was looking into potentially allowing them again with stringent regulations at a later date. According to Turner, the township is having issues with the short-term rentals taking away affordable housing from long-term use in rent-controlled buildings.
In addition to taking affordable units off the market, Turner argued that the short-term rentals are making residents uncomfortable at the apartment buildings where they occur. Although located in densely populated Hudson County, the township is still mostly suburban in nature, prompting complaints from residents about strangers coming and going, he said.
Another reason behind the proposed ban on short-term rentals is crime. He said that sometimes, people offer these short-term rentals and realize their property and even furniture has gone missing.
According to Turner, this ban would not be affecting mom-and-pop hosts as much as it would be investors looking to profit off of the short-term rentals. He said that most short-term rentals in Weehawken are owned by absentee landlords who often don’t live in the township.
The penalties for each violation of the ordinance began at $1,000 for the first time, $1,500 for the second time, and $2,000 for the third time, with the possibility of 90 days of jail time. Turner said this was to discourage the practice through significant loss of income, with the fine being equivalent to what he said was the income of bookings for two short-term rentals.
Turner said the township was comfortable with the ban, doing so now in the winter to prepare for what is usually a rush in Weehawken in the spring. However, the township will examine other policies from neighboring municipalities, such as Jersey City which passed strict regulations on short-term rentals in the past, to see if Weehawken would benefit from them.
Turner and the township council will meet next on Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. at Town Hall at 400 Park Avenue. For more information, go to weehawken-nj.us.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.