Philipstown Board Wraps Up 2020

Suggests review of raucous roosters, short-term rentals

The Philipstown Town Board last week wrapped up 2020 by looking ahead to potential zoning updates to address raucous roosters and short-term rentals.

At its Dec. 22 meeting held at the town Recreation Center in Garrison, Councilor Mike Leonard proposed that the board review zoning laws on owning barnyard animals. “There’s an awful lot of very small properties that are having an awful lot of what I would consider farm animals, and it’s causing some issues with neighbors,” he said.

The code requires 40,000 square feet for each large animal, such as a horse, cow or pig, plus 40,000 square feet allocated to the residence. It limits smaller animals, including geese, ducks, chickens, other birds, cats and monkeys, to 10 animals on any lot of less than 2 acres and states that anyone who owns farm animals shall not “knowingly interfere with the reasonable use and enjoyment of the property of others.”

Leonard said the board might consider whether the town should “just say that chickens and roosters and so forth are commercial [animals] and really not domestic like a dog or cat is.” He said he’s been hearing “rooster complaints,” calling it an “unbelievably” hot topic, at least to residents who are awakened at 5 a.m.

“It’s one thing to have chickens, but roosters…” Shea commented, noting that the town also is “getting a lot of donkey complaints — again.” Some exotic donkeys in Garrison “sound like the hounds of hell,” he said. “I’ve been on Indian Brook Road and it’s like, ‘What is that?’” He agreed that the board “will have to revisit that” area of law.

Humans can also make unseemly rackets, Councilor John Van Tassel observed, suggesting that “we need some sort of plan” for short-term rentals such as those arranged through Airbnb. A typical objection involves “parties, week after week,” he said.

Shea called the short-term rental question “a tough one. I have mixed feelings about it, because the fact is that right now people can get extra income out of it, which I wouldn’t want to stop. But when you have places having 40 to 50 people at them, that’s a different story. If you’re going to start raising hell in a residential neighborhood, then we’re going to come after you.”  

Philipstown’s code permits bed-and-breakfasts nearly anywhere with Planning Board approval. It defines a bed-and-breakfast as “a dwelling in which overnight accommodations not exceeding five bedrooms and breakfast are provided for transient guests for compensation.”

However, the code also allows for “lodging facilities” — hotels, motels, inns or any “other establishment providing sleeping accommodations for transient guests, with or without a dining room or restaurant, excluding bed-and-breakfast establishments.” They are permitted in districts designated as Hamlet Mixed-Use and Highway Commercial, as well as Institutional Conservation and Hamlet Residential with special-use permits.

A draft of the updated Comprehensive Plan, presented to the Town Board on Dec. 3 by the volunteer committee that wrote it urges town officials to “explore policies related to short-term rentals to prevent the loss of a diverse housing stock.”

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