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An hourlong discussion at the Tuesday (Oct. 5) meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board failed to produce a decision on a request from two business owners for an exemption from new short-term rental regulations.
David and Melia Marzollo own the Ascend yoga studio at 75 Main St. They also have operated an Airbnb in the building since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“I’m asking for a one-year exemption,” David Marzollo said, describing it as a grace period to help the couple cover financial commitments from before the pandemic and before the short-term rental law was adopted in August. The regulations state that any resident “aggrieved by” the law “may apply to the Village Board for relief.”
In January 2020, Marzollo said, the couple began building a house on Lane Gate Road in Philipstown. When the shutdown began soon after, their yoga studio “tanked.” Even as life slowly began to return to normal, exercise facilities were among the last businesses allowed to reopen.
Ascend began offering classes outdoors at Boscobel but that only covered payments to the instructors and rent to Boscobel. At the same time, they gave rent deals to their tenants at 75 Main St. who were shut down.
“We were between a rock and a hard place,” Marzollo said. “We started an Airbnb out of necessity, to stop the bleeding, and it worked.”
Under Chapter 100, the Marzollos can’t apply for an STR permit because their building is owned by a limited liability corporation and they don’t live on the premises. He said they could apply with the state to be classified as a bed-and-breakfast, “but we’re not a B&B. We want to be a wellness center.”
Deputy Mayor Marie Early said granting relief from an entire chapter of the code “is not something we should do,” pointing out that even before Chapter 100 was adopted, it was illegal to operate a short-term rental on Main Street. Under the old law, STRs were allowed only along state highways, which in Cold Spring includes Route 9D and Route 301 east of the traffic signal.
Although that law was not enforced, most STRs operating in Cold Spring were technically in violation of it. Chapter 100 now limits the number of STRs.
Mayor Dave Merandy said granting Marzollo’s request would set a bad precedent. “There’s no way we’d have an effective code if we grant you this,” he said. “Everyone will say the same thing: ‘We have a hardship; we have investments.’ ”
“I agree with my colleagues that exemptions are slippery slope,” said Trustee Kathleen Foley. “You might have more of a case [for hardship] if you didn’t have any other capacity for income.”
She suggested the couple approach Putnam County and Philipstown about federal relief funding. “They’re considering using some of it for personal and commercial relief,” she said.
Melia Marzollo questioned why the possibility of relief is part of the STR law if it can’t be granted. “You say you can’t make an exception because of precedent; but it says in the law to come forward and tell you why you need relief.”
After an hour of debate, Merandy said: “We’re not going to make a decision tonight. I need to think about things.”
“That’s better than ‘no,’ ” David Marzollo responded.
Discussion continued on proposed zoning changes that are part of an update of the Village Code. At last week’s meeting there was agreement that the Light Industry designation for the 12-acre Marathon site on Kemble Avenue be left in place, reversing an earlier decision to zone it Mixed-Use. Instead, Planned Unit Development (PUD) would be used for the site, an approach supported by Village Attorney John Furst and planner Ted Fink.
That was challenged at Tuesday’s meeting by Paul Henderson, who served on the Code Update Committee. In an email to The Current, Henderson said Furst and Fink had also advised the committee that the Mixed-Use designation it recommended was “based on hours of discussion and research.”
PUD for the Kemble site has been “insufficiently vetted,” he said. “It leaves the village open to [industrial] development, whose character would be at odds with that of the historic village.”
A public hearing on proposed changes to Chapter 134 of the Village Code (Zoning), Chapter 104 (Signs and Placards) and Chapter 76 (Noise) is scheduled for Thursday (Oct. 14) at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom.
In other business …
- Merandy “reluctantly” accepted Ruthanne Cullinan Barr’s resignation from the Recreation Commission, congratulating her for having done “a great job.” Jeff Amato was appointed chair and Aaron Leonard was appointed a member.
- Jablko Construction of Scarsdale was awarded an $87,000 contract to repair a stone wall on the north side of Main Street between Orchard and B streets.
- The council approved the purchase of a $6,288 computer to install in a new Cold Spring police vehicle.
- As part of the Village Code update, the public hearing on Chapter 126 (Vehicles and Traffic) was closed and amendments were adopted for Chapter 111 (Subdivision of Land) and 124 (Unsafe Buildings).