CHATHAM—The Town Board voted three-to-two to move forward with a public hearing on a proposed law governing short-term rentals (STRs). The board vote came during a June 18 online meeting using the Google Meets platform. The proposed law is on the town’s website, www.chathamnewyork.us
The board’s vote also sends the proposed law to the county Planning Board for review and sets the public hearing for August 6.
Supervisor Donal Collins and board members Vance Pitkin and Abi Mesick voted Yes on the motion. Board members Kevin Weldon and John Wapner voted No.
At the June 25 special board meeting the board voted, three-to-two, against having a workshop meeting on the proposed STR law before the public hearing. Councilman Wapner proposed a workshop saying the board was close to a compromise on the issue. Councilman Weldon also voted Yes on having a workshop meeting. Supervisor Collins said that he thought “it’s time to get this through.” And Councilwoman Mesick said she felt they could hold endless workshops on the law but it was time to allow the draft to work. She also stressed that this was “far from the end of the discussion.”
Ms. Mesick presented the proposed law at a workshop meeting in early June, saying at that time she hoped the public would look at it. “All we’re doing is putting it out there,” she said at the June 4 meeting.
At the June 18 regular meeting, Supervisor Collins said he liked the proposed law and would “like to proceed with this.”
Ms. Mesick said the proposed law, if adopted, would be reviewed again when the town’s Comprehensive Plan is updated, a project the board started in January. The town’s Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee had planned to host meetings in the town’s hamlets in March to hear residents’ concerns, but most of those meetings were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Mesick said the committee was waiting to meet again when they could meet in-person and that the committee wants to continue with the hamlet meetings.
The town’s Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2009, and since then two different town committees worked on updating the town’s zoning laws to be consistent with the plan. STRs became a major issue in trying to pass the new zoning law last summer and fall. Supervisor Collins, Ms. Mesick and Mr. Pitkin were elected in November and took office in January. Before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down meetings, the board held several public meetings on a proposed STR law, which is separate from the larger zoning law update.
As for this newest draft of the proposed STR law, Mr. Pitkin said, “We want to make it clear this is a stop-gap.” He said that this proposed law would be changed once the Comprehensive Plan is updated and the board reviews the zoning law.
“This current draft is the best alternative,” he said.
Ms. Mesick said of the new draft, “You just need to give this a chance.” She also said—as she has about other STR law drafts—“It gives us control” over the use, since the town has no regulations that apply to STRs like the ones offered on Airbnb and other websites.
Mr. Wapner did not agree that passing this proposed law would be a stop-gap measure and dismissing the idea that the law would be temporary as ludicrous. He also criticized the lack of public input on the newest version, saying, “I think ignoring people in this community is disgraceful.”
Councilman Weldon said that the board had received emails from community members saying they wanted more input.
Mr. Wapner and Mr. Weldon circulated their own STR law proposal to the board, which, Mr. Wapner said had many points in common with the one that Ms. Mesick was presenting. The board discussed that proposal generally, and talked about a residency requirement for homeowners offering short-term rentals.
Mr. Weldon stressed that he and Mr. Wapner are “thinking of the residents of this town,” with their proposed law. Mr. Wapner said that the town needs STRs and “residents should be able to do that,” but he was concerned with people buying property in the town to use as STRs.
The proposed law the Town Board is sending to the county for review says that a short-term rental is “the rental of dwelling, dwelling unit or other establishment providing sleeping accommodations to visitors for less then thirty days.” There is permit fee of $100 annually for the STR, and is non-transferable if the property changes ownership. Also the proposed law says an owner “shall be limited to owning two STR properties within the Town of Chatham.”
Also at the meeting June 18 meeting:
• The board passed Solarize Chatham resolution to support the town sub-committee looking at ways to bring together “groups of potential community solar customers through widespread outreach and education”
• Supervisor Collins talked about the town’s Broadband Committee, saying there was a survey for residents to take online about their broadband service.
The next regular board meeting will be Thursday, July 17 at 6:30 p.m.