Hillsdale law regulates short term rentals

HILLSDALE–The Town Board has adopted Local Law 2, which regulates short term rentals (STR), commonly referred to as Airbnb rentals, after the company by that name. The law requires STR owners to: 1) register their properties, 2) get a $50 permit annually, 3) have the owner, manager or authorized representative live within 20 miles of the property, and 4) provide contact information for the owner, manager or representative.

STR properties will also be subject to periodic and on-the-spot inspections. STRs owners will have six months to comply with the new law.

The board adopted the law at the regular monthly meeting December 10.

At the meeting December 10, a contingent of Hillsdale fire chiefs, represented by Commissioner Bud Atwood, spoke in the time allotted to the Fire District report about difficulties dealing with multi-dwelling apartment building owners. Town law requires the units and buildings to be inspected, annually, but according to Mr. Atwood, the town’s Code Enforcement Officer, Lee Heim, is being denied access to the properties.

Mr. Atwood said the lack of inspections is a “safety issue” and complicates firefighters’ work because it is unclear how many occupants are in a unit or the overall capacity of buildings.

Town Supervisor Peter Cipkowski agreed with an audience member’s suggestion that the town may need to hire an inspector dedicated to multi-unit buildings in light of the increased workload for inspector Heim.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, businessman Steve Bluestone complained to the board that an offer to open his brewery business at “reduced capacity” was unacceptable because reduced capacity equals “reduced income.” He added that further delays in opening the 18-month project would cause him to “lay off workers and contractors.”

Building plans call for seven apartments above the brewery, which Mr. Bluestone cannot rent due to unresolved issues with the town’s sewage system.

The businessman noted that he was told that the town’s system had the capacity for his business and that the town’s engineer oversaw the installation of the sewer system. In addition, Mr. Bluestone said that he spent extra money to install a timer system for duplex sewage pumps, which he called a benefit to the town’s central system.

He said that he has spent tens of thousands of dollars more than such a project would normally cost trying to comply with various government regulations. Mr. Bluestone expressed exasperation that the situation has forced him to hire an attorney, “another unexpected expense.”

He noted that all other systems–electrical, water, fire alarm and sprinkler–have been approved by appropriate authorities. A final inspection was scheduled for December 12.

In other public comments, two audience members encouraged the board to allow Mr. Bluestone to hook-up to the town’s sewer system even if it means higher “sewer rates.” Mr. Cipkowski assured those present that “sewer rates will not go up” but stressed that the “sewer budget has to balance,” must be “economically viable” and “completely lawful.”

In other business at the meeting:

• Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs asked for the town’s help in reminding residents about snow removal parking regulations. Mr. Briggs said that snow removal efforts on Cold Water Street have been hampered by cars parked in the middle of the road and that residents complained vigorously about blocked driveways. “After working 33 hours straight” the difficulties were unwelcome, Mr. Briggs said.

Mr. Cipkowski said the town would do a “targeted mailing” and post a reminder in the town newsletter

• Infrastructure Committee Chair Robina Ward reported that another street lamp has been toppled, this time by a town snowplow truck. It is the third pole felled since their installation over the summer. There was a consensus that something needs to be done to protect the poles because the town’s insurance is not likely to continue paying for replacements. According to Ms. Ward, the poles cost $7,500 each

• In an email from Supervisor Cipkowski, he reported “the Town Board rejected my recommendation to appoint Robert Patterson, a Hillsdale-based municipal accountant, as the Town Accountant in 2020.” He wrote that the change from the current firm of Furlano and Arace of Pittsfield, MA, would save Hillsdale an additional $3,000. Only board member Jill Sims Elster supported the change.

The next board meeting is Tuesday, January 14 at 7 pm.

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