Chatham board opens door to new STR rules

OLD CHATHAM–The Town Board held a workshop meeting at the Tri-Village Firehouse to discuss proposed updates to the current town zoning law.

The subject of short-term rentals (STRs) took up the largest amount of time. STRs currently are not regulated under the town’s zoning law.

The February 6 meeting started with a public hearing on a proposed town law to create the position of confidential administrative assistant to the Town Supervisor. One audience member had a question about the position, which replaces the position of budget officer. Supervisor Donal Collins said that new title would not change anything in the budget and the responsibilities for the administrative assistant “are redundant to the budget office.”

He said there had been an issue with civil service law and the current budget officer title, held by Tammy Shaw. Ms. Shaw will continue in a job with the new title.

The board passed a motion approving the creation of the new title after closing the public hearing.

It was later in the meeting that the board turned to Henry Corsun to moderate the discussion of STRs. Using large sheets of paper, Mr. Corsun asked the audience to identify the benefits and drawbacks of having STRs in the town.

There is a draft law with STR regulations now on the town’s website. Councilwoman Abi Mesick, who prepared the draft, stressed this wording was just a first draft.

The proposed regulations include definitions for “Commercial Weddings and Party Event Venues,” and “Lodging Facility” as well for STRs.

The proposed law defines a short-term rental investment property as “a property that is not occupied by the owner and is primarily used for income.” The draft says these properties would require a special use permit from the town Planning Board.

Standard short term rentals (SSTR) are defined as “the rental or lease of any dwelling, dwelling unit or other establishment to a visitor for a period of less than 30 days.” It also includes the statement that “SSTRs shall be allowed in all zoning districts of the town.”

Several of the audience members who rent out their property or rooms in their homes on a short term basis, talked about the benefits of the extra income as well as the jobs that are created in the area. Sally Simmons said that STRs are the only options for people to stay when they visit the area.

Supervisor Collins said it was way to reunite families who visit.

There was discussion about STRs reducing the availability of long-term rental properties, but STR supporters said that people who have visited the area while staying at a STR return and buy a house in the town.

A resident of North Chatham, Dottie Cummings, said that a drawback was in a small community like the hamlet she lives in is that she wants to know her neighbors. She wanted to see a residency component in any regulation on STRs.

Other topics included defining STRs, traffic and owners’ property rights.

Next, Mr. Corsun asked whether anyone opposed all regulations on STRs. One resident said she felt her STR was already regulated as a home business. Councilman Vance Pitkin said he had heard from one person who does not want any STR regulations.

As the group went through the issues they talked about zones where STRs could be located, restrictions on using buses to transport guests, density issues and how to inform tenants about rental agreements and regulations.

Planning Board Chair Gabriella Sperry said that for a bed and breakfast, the property owner needs to come to her board for site plan review, which considers parking, density and lighting. The proposed regulations on the website say that SSTRs need a permit issued by the Town of Chatham Code Enforcement Officer.

Councilwoman Mesick said that when property owners don’t follow town regulations, “the permits can always be revoked.”

She also stressed that the wording in the proposed regulations are not final, saying, “This is a draft for people to comment on.” She has already received comments from residents who had looked at it and the board plans to present a reworked version of the proposal.

Councilman Pitkin said that he sat in on a county Board of Supervisors committee meeting on STRs. He said there was a bill in the state Assembly to regulate STRs that includes placing a tax on the service. “It’s unclear how far it’s going to go,” he said of the bill. He did say the county was talking about having a countywide contract with Host Compliance LLC, the company that provided monitoring of STR activity. In January the town terminated its contract with Host Compliance.

After about an hour and half on STRs, the board moved on to a short discussion on applications for changing lot lines, hoping to streamline that process. And Supervisor Collins said he wanted to designate alternates to the town Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Both would require changes in the current town code.

Mr. Corsun said he would write up the notes on the discussion on STRs and the board would discuss the issue further at their meetings and workshops in the coming month. Anyone who has a comment on the regulations can email Town Clerk Beth Anne Rippel at

Also at the February 6 meeting:

• The board had a short discussion about the Crellin Park. Supervisor Collins said he was asked to sign off on the plans to finish the pavilion at the park. The board approved plans to upgrade the building before Mr. Collins took office in January. He said he has some questions about the full project

• The board heard from representatives form the disc golf club that uses town property behind Town Hall. The group was asking for help with maintenance of the property and talked about expanding the course. There was also talk about having a “glow league” that takes place at night on the property, which is currently closed dusk until dawn.

Mr. Collins said the board “will entertain” all the issues brought up by the club. Disc golf is a played on 18 baskets using a flying disc or Frisbee. The club has been using the course and maintaining it with volunteers for about five years.

The next town board meeting will be Thursday, February 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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