Grandinetti Applies For Status As B And B After Facebook Controversy

by Mike Hudson

In much the same way you wouldn’t want to give a loaded gun to, there are others for whom a laptop and a Facebook account can provide an avenue leading directly to all sorts of trouble.

Niagara Falls City Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti has often made headlines with her Facebook postings, particularly those dealing with sexual politics and women’s rights.

Her postings have been controversial to the point where Mayor Paul Dyster gave her the order to cease and desist in the runup to last year’s primary and general elections. She posted nothing from August until after the elections were over in November.

Dyster’s order came after Grandinetti wrote that the Niagara Falls City School District was “borderline criminal” in its’ sexual education curriculum, shared a video depicting a group of pre-pubescent girls dropping the f-bomb and regularly promotes Planned Parenthood, abortion rights and lesbianism. The fact that she teaches kindergarten in the school system has been a factor in the ongoing series of controversies.

On Tuesday, Grandinetti posted a defense that had nothing to do with obscenity, sex or abortion. It concerned the fact that, through the Airbnb program, she sometimes rents a bedroom in her house to tourists visiting the city. Technically, the practice is illegal.

“Everybody can sleep tonight and look for something else to torment me about,” she wrote. “I filled out the B and B paperwork with code enforcement…and I will not be giving anyone the names of other airbnb hosts. Because of my position I am subject to SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT. But it’s worth it to be allowed to serve this community as a councilmember.”

In the face of mounting criticism on Facebook, Grandinetti has previously asserted her right to rent a room in her home.

“I am not operating a bed and breakfast,” Grandinetti wrote. “I rent one room in my house to world travelers through Airbnb. I do not serve breakfast, I do not cook food. I provide a room for someone to sleep and a bathroom to take a shower just like over 200 other people in the city do but because it’s me somebody complained. I am asking the other Airbnb people to stand up and be counted. I claim all of my Airbnb revenue on my taxes but I will not pay for nor will I be named as a B and B when I do not serve breakfast or lunch or dinner. If you would like us to register and pay bed tax, then an ordinance/law needs to be written and put into place. Then I will happily comply.”

A 2011 New York State law prohibits renting residential units for less than 29 days, with certain exceptions. The law was put in place because private individuals renting out their spare bedroom for a night or a week don’t pay bed taxes. In Niagara Falls, virtually all of the bed tax money – around $1 million a year — gets handed over to John Percy and his Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

Mike Kirsch of the Niagara County health Department said that Grandinetti and all of the other Airbnb providers in the city are violating the law.

“Keep in mind anything other than a hotel, motel, hostel or bed and breakfast is illegal,” he said. “This why vacation rentals are often referred to as Illegal bed and breakfast or illegal hotels. So if you want to rent a room, or part of a duplex you must be a bed and breakfast.”

According to Kirsch, to run a legal bed and breakfast you must meet fire codes, have a licensed architect sign off on fire code, receive an inspection from city code enforcement and get a certificate of compliance, have a Niagara County Health Board inspection, register in Lockport as a business, obtain a state tax number and register to pay the city bed tax.

“If you have not followed this you are an illegal bed and breakfast. The Niagara County Health Board refers to anything other than a BNB as an illegal bed and breakfast,” he said. “You would also need a special use permit in most zones in the city of Niagara Falls. They have done some research on this subject in Niagara Falls. Contrary to popular belief you cannot rent apartments in a commercial apartment building short term. So as can be seen on Airbnb this is a huge problem in the city.”

Quite frankly, the Niagara Falls Reporter has to side with Grandinetti and the other Airbnb providers on this one. Property taxes in Niagara Falls are the highest based on value in the entire state of New York, and perhaps the entire country. In our view, a homeowner who occasionally rents a room in an attempt to offset this inequity deserves sympathy rather than finger pointing.

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