COPAKE—The process took about seven years, but the Town of Copake now has a revised zoning code on the books.
Local Law #4 of 2018, “A Local Law to Revise the Zoning Code of The Town of Copake,” was enacted unanimously by the Town Board at its July 12 meeting.
Review and revision of the zoning code was undertaken beginning in 2011 after the town adopted its Comprehensive Plan. The idea was “to ensure that the Town Zoning Code promoted, and was in conformity with, the principles, objectives and visions set out in the Comprehensive Plan. This local law is the culmination and embodiment of that effort,” according to the law.
The Land Use Review Committee (LURC) worked on revising the law and the zoning map for more than five years, then turned over their draft to the Town Board for further scrutiny during workshop meetings, by other boards and the town attorney.
Two public hearings were conducted on the revision, the second one just prior to the its adoption July 12. At that hearing, Gray Davis, a Copake Lake resident and former Planning Board member, addressed the board about the zoning code change regarding Transient Housing/House Rentals. He said he and his partner have purchased several properties around the lake that they have renovated, maintain and rent out. He said he has never had any complaints from neighbors or the community about his renters over the many years he has been renting homes and wondered what was driving the change to require a special use permit.
Later, during the portion of the regular meeting designated for review of public hearing comments, Town Attorney Ken Dow explained that the section of the law Mr. Davis is concerned about does not prohibit home rentals. He said transient housing is occupied for 30 days or less. Housing occupied for 31 days or more is considered non-transient and is not restricted. Mr. Dow said the code comes into play when homes are rented for short-term increments that add up to 92 days or more, then a special use permit is needed in all districts.
Previously, there was no remedy under the zoning code for dealing with repeat transient housing rental problems.
“The town cannot kick you out of your house no matter how bad you behave. If there is no permitting, the town has no recourse. There has to be something in place to deal with chronic problems,” said the attorney.
The town has previously been involved in legal proceedings in connection with transient properties owned by Ben-Meir Properties at Upper Rhoda Pond, where neighbors complained of weekend renters engaging in loud, disruptive partying and polluting the lake.
In voicing her support of the new revised law, Councilwoman Kelly Miller-Simmons said she wanted a law that would protect the rural charm that the town is known for, along with the neighbors and community, yet not restrict homeowners about what they could do with their property.
Councilman Stanley “Stosh” Gansowski said it is a small price for homeowners to pay to get a special use permit so they can rent out their property as they wish.
Councilwoman Jeanne Mettler praised the way the board worked together to get through the revision “to fashion this good compromise” and address the issues.
Councilman Richard Wolf said zoning issues are complicated and the town attorney presented them in a “clear and cogent way.”
Later, when sponsoring the zoning revision resolution, Supervisor Jeff Nayer noted the town had spent many years on zoning revision. “We did not take this lightly and did not rubber stamp it.” He credited Mr. Dow along with the LURC–Bob Haight, Chris Grant, Frank Peteroy and Edgar Masters–for seeing it through.
“Those guys out there brought the ball down the field and we crossed the goal line,” said Mr. Gansowski.
All board members voted in favor of resolution during a roll call vote.
In related zoning business, the Town Board received a letter from AES Distributed Energy in Boulder, Colorado, which is a national solar development company working with New York to expand solar power.
AES is the firm hired by the state to develop a solar system totaling 1,240 KW at 100 Orphan Farm Road on about five acres owned by the State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation. The project will generate power exclusively for the benefit of the state park. In the letter, AES notified the town it intends to start constructing the project sometime in the next eight months.
The Town Board first heard about the project in a November 2017 letter discussed at the December 2017 meeting.
Though the town enacted a new solar energy law in April 2017, which is now part of the new revised zoning code, the state is exempt from the law that prohibits utility-scale energy systems in the Scenic Corridor Overlay Zone where the state’s project is located.
Supervisor Nayer “thanked” the state “for doing whatever they want to do… not having to get permits after we went to all the trouble to a make a solar law.”
Also at the meeting, the supervisor introduced soon-to-be Roe Jan area Resident Deputy Joseph Kilmer, who invited anyone to talk to him at any time. Former Resident Deputy David Proper retired.
The board’s next meeting is Saturday, August 11 at 9 a.m. at Town Hall.
To contact Diane Valden email