CHATHAM—The Town Board held a public hearing online on proposed Local Law #2 that would create regulations governing short-term rental properties. At times, a little over 40 people joined the meeting on September 3 and about 15 people spoke. The board has also posted emails from residents about the proposed law on the town website at chathamnewyork.us
Many of the residents who spoke wanted the local law to include a residency requirement for owners of short-term rentals and set a higher permit fee for property owners who want to offer a short-term rental.
Town Supervisor Donal Collins read the proposed law before the public hearing started and said that the Town Board members were at the meeting to listen. Board members did not comment during the public hearing. The town also had a stenographer at the hearing.
At a town meeting August 20, the board voted to hold the public hearing. Councilman John Wapner opposed the motion for the hearing, saying he was not sure which version of the proposed law he would be voting on. At that meeting, Supervisor Collins said the proposed law was the one on the town’s website.
The board had planned to host a public hearing at the beginning of August but was advised to delay the because a different version of the proposed law had been sent to the county Planning Board for its review.
At Thursday’s meeting, Supervisor Collins said the county Planning Board suggested the town remove a definition in the law’s text. On the agenda for the meeting, which is on the town’s website, there is an updated proposed Local Law #2 with a line through the definition of “Lodging Facilities” and a change that refers only to short-term rentals (STRs).
‘We shouldn’t be losing money on this.’
The proposed law, labeled “#2 includes CCPB recommendations” in the agenda, defines STRs as the rental of a dwelling, dwelling unit or other establishment to a visitor for less than 30 days. “This definition specifically excludes hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and inns,” the proposed law reads.
The proposed regulation says that STRs must obtain a permit annually from the town code enforcement officer for a fee of $100 and says that the permits are non-transferable. STR owners must have a local contact person who lives within 20 miles of the STR.
The law also sets some base occupancy allowances, which are different for properties within hamlet zones in the town. And the proposal says that STRs located outside the hamlets “shall be limited to 2 STR’s per property.” Within the hamlet zones the limit is one STR per property with only one STR unit per structure.
Many of the people who spoke at the meeting talked about supporting STRs in the area but that they wanted a residency requirement so that absentee landlords or companies could not buy properties in the town and rent them out. North Chatham resident Dorothy Cummings asked the board to clarify if it was legal or not to have a residency requirement in the law, pointing out that other towns in the state have those regulations.
Other residents talked about having a sunset prevision in the law. The board has said at past meetings that the zoning law will be updated once the town’s Comprehensive Plan is updated and that will include updating the STR regulations. Residents were appointed to the Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee in January.
At a meeting in June, Councilman Vance Pitkin called this STR law proposal a stop-gap measure. And Councilwoman Abi Mesick said the town needed to get control of STRs. Currently STR regulations are not in the zoning code. At that same meeting in June, Supervisor Collins said he wanted to move on with the proposed regulations.
A few people who spoke talked about how important STRs are for tourism in the town. Elizabeth Marks, who offers an STR on her property in the town, talked about not wanting to limit tourism in the county. Sally Simmons, who has also talked in the past about renting out her property as a STR, pointed out that there have been several drafts of STR regulations. She felt this version was a good law.
Residents talked about waiting for more discussion before adopting the proposed law. Julie Kabat, who presented a petition signed by residents, asked to have more data on STRs.
Other residents voiced concerns that the fee for permit is too low. “We shouldn’t be losing money on this,” said town resident William Eimicke.
The board voted to leave the public hearing open until September 10, though Mr. Collins said the board will not have a meeting on that date.
The next regular Town Board meeting will be Thursday, September 17 at 7 p.m.
For more information on the law and the future meeting, go to www.chathamnewyork.us