Also: School district outlines diversity plan
Two years after the Beacon City Council was unable to agree on how to regulate short-term rentals such as those booked through Airbnb, it earlier this month amended the zoning code to allow them in single- and multi-family homes.
As of Oct. 1, homeowners and tenants in any zoning district will be permitted to rent or sublet homes or apartments for up to 100 days per year and 30 days at a time. The rental spaces must be owner-occupied, which means that they must be the owner or renter’s primary residence, not an investment property.
An inspection and $150 permit will be required. For renters who are subletting space, the landlord must sign the permit application. If an entire home or apartment is to be rented, a contact must be available to respond in person within two hours if issues arise.
Rental spaces must be inspected and permits renewed for $50 every two years. Anyone offering short-term rentals before Oct. 1, although technically illegal, will have until Nov. 15 to apply for a permit.
In 2018, a motion to legalize the rentals failed because the council feared state building codes would require homeowners to implement costly fire safety measures.
However, the law passed by the City Council earlier this month permits short-term rentals as an “accessory use,” allowing homeowners to bypass the most onerous parts of the building code.
While the measure passed unanimously, Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair said he believed the legislation should limit rentals to fewer than 30 consecutive days. Too many strangers coming and going will disrupt neighborhoods, he said.
The council on June 15 adopted new citywide zoning tables following a two-year review.
The tables, which had not been updated in more than 40 years, outline uses and guidelines for each of the city’s zoning districts. John Clarke, the city’s planning consultant, rewrote the tables to consolidate similar uses while reducing the number of special permits that are required and streamlining the standards by which the council or Planning Board must judge them.
The project also saw the creation of a new “transitional” district that flanks Main Street, and the tables allow more commercial development in the waterfront and the river-to-Main linkage zones.
The Beacon school board on June 17 adopted a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the statement, the board reiterated its “collective commitment to equity in our schools while also recognizing that we still have much to learn and change in order to fully address racism in our own institutions. We recognize that our schools have not always succeeded at this and apologize to those we have failed to serve.”
The board adopted the statement 8-1, with President Anthony White voting against it. He explained that while he recognizes the district has work to do, he felt “the statement does not acknowledge the work that the district has already engaged in to address inequities.”
The board continued the discussion at its June 22 meeting, during which Superintendent Matt Landahl laid out a number of “restorative practices” that the district plans to undertake, including:
Working with the Mediation Center of Dutchess County to create either socially distanced or virtual “talking circles” for students and possibly parents to discuss race and other issues;
Adding students to the Equity Leadership Teams at district schools;
Issuing an equity report card by July 31 with statistics on the demographics of students, administration and staff; and
Adjusting curriculum to make it “more affirming” and “more reflective of diversity” and social-justice issues.
Erik Wright, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and student support, told the board that, over the summer, the district should “look at U.S. history and begin to focus on those areas that haven’t been tapped into much and bring out the contributions of people” during critical times such as the Reconstruction era.
“If we want to have a community and a country where all people really matter — and at this point in time where black lives matter — we have to build the conditions for empathy to be accepted and understood,” he said.
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