Calls for fewer permits, tougher enforcement
A committee advising the Cold Spring Village Board on short-term rental regulations made its first recommendations on Wednesday (Nov. 30), laying out how a recently enacted law governing accommodations booked through Airbnb and similar sites could be revised.
The existing law, which is Chapter 100 of the village code, was adopted in July 2021 by the previous administration. It has been criticized for being complicated and difficult to enforce.
The committee’s major recommendations include:
- Require short-term rental (STR) owners to live on-site. The existing law allows some STRs to operate when the owner lives elsewhere. One-time permits of up to 14 consecutive days would still be issued for events such as West Point graduation and family vacations.
- Reduce the number of STRs that can legally operate in the village from 49 to 40 but allow unlimited rentals. Also, add a waiting list for permits. The current law limits the number of operating days.
- Streamline the requirements for obtaining a permit, including doing away with the lottery system.
- Create clear operating rules, including one rental party at a time, greeted by the host, and occupancy of no more than two people per bedroom and eight total.
- Create a position for enforcement and purchase monitoring and compliance software. The current law states the police are responsible for citing violations, which are punishable with fines.
The committee also considered the potential impact of recent federal court rulings on Cold Spring’s ability to limit STR operations to an owner’s primary residence. Because it’s not clear how New York state courts might rule, Jennifer Zwarich, who chairs the STR committee, said the village attorney recommended a policy that would allow any owner to apply for a permit “if they designate a host who has been a primary resident of the property for at least three years before the permit application.”
Along with Zwarich, the committee, appointed in June, consists of Branis Buslovich, Tom O’Quinn, Marianne Remy, Lara Demberg Voloto, Megan Shea and Travis Fyfe. All are full-time village residents. Five of the seven operate or until recently operated STRs.
The exceptions are Fyfe and Zwarich, who said she initially opposed appointing STR operators, fearing their financial interests could interfere with their ability to act in the public interest.
“My fears were not borne out,” she said this week. Although there were disagreements, “everyone on the committee worked in good faith toward a common objective.”
Zwarich said the existing local legislation is “a good law” that needs refinement to overcome obstacles that prevent it from being effective. The key obstacles, she said, include the staff time required to administer the lottery permit system and the need for enforcement through means other than the police.
Both Mayor Kathleen Foley and Larry Burke, officer-in-charge of the Cold Spring Police Department, have said law enforcement shouldn’t be responsible for compliance because STR regulations are a civil, not criminal, matter.
Zwarich said the committee still has work to do including refining its draft recommendations, determining application procedures, and adding language that takes a new occupancy tax into account. She also pointed out that Chapter 134 of the Village Code, which deals with zoning, must be updated before the Village Board can adopt revisions to the STR law.
The board continued its review of a proposed parking plan that will include residential permits in the area east of the Metro-North tracks and metered parking on weekends and holidays on Main Street, and possibly Fair Street.
Foley said the board will conduct one more detailed review before hosting a public meeting on the plan early next year. She noted that while the village had believed that residential permits could not be issued on Main Street because it is zoned for business, state law does not forbid it. During times when metered parking is in force, Main Street residents will have to pay or park on side streets.
While no decisions were made, the board seemed to be leaning toward a number of specifics, including rates of $4 per hour on Main and Fair streets on weekends and holidays. The annual permit fee for residents with driveways would be $50; for those without driveways, it would be $35 for the first permit and $50 for a second.
In other business …
■ About 200 new water meter endpoints still need to be installed, and the project will likely be complete by early 2023, Foley said. For endpoints already installed, monitoring will be possible in two to three weeks once the system is up and running.
■ The board approved two agreements with Haldane Central School District, for continuing shared use of Mayors Park and for improvements to the baseball field. Haldane’s baseball team has raised $12,000 for upgrades that Haldane Superintendent Philip Benante said will cost about $50,000. The school district will fund the balance.
■ The mayor was authorized to sign an agreement for mutual aid with the Town of Philipstown for snow removal this winter.
■ The board approved a request for the lighting of a Menorah near the Main Street visitor center on Dec. 20.
■ The public restrooms near the pedestrian tunnel will be closed for the winter as of Dec. 31.