Village seeks to revise tourist housing law


The Cooperstown Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. today to discuss a law concerning tourist accommodations.

The potential law, which would repeal and revise a similar law from 2015, will be discussed in the village meeting room at 22 Main St.

The trustees passed a nine-month moratorium on issuing new permits in late May, and it will expire in about six weeks. Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz said they have kept the March date in mind as they worked to revise the law.

“We think this is a much better law than what we have now,” Katz said.

Officially the village is calling the potential law a “transient rentals” law. Katz said the term was coined to combine three different categories of short-term rentals: licensed rentals in compliance, non-conforming pre-existing rentals and potential new applications.

The 10-page potential law is headed by a short purpose section, which Katz said is an effort to explain the law and its history.

“This local law is intended to foster long-term housing options,” it reads. “It codifies criteria to ensure that new short-term rentals remain incidental to long-term housing in residential areas, creates a procedure to phase out existing transient rentals that do not comply with new requirements, and establishes requirements for special use permits and annual registrations to operate a transient rental.”

Katz said the village is acting based on its 2016 Comprehensive Plan, which identified year-round housing, for rentals and ownership, as one of the biggest issues facing Cooperstown.

“We’re not ending this as a business,” Katz said. “This is a business we see a need for here. However, we see other needs as well.”

The proposed law would continue to allow pre-exisiting non-conforming rentals, but they would be owner-specific, and would not pass along with the sale of a property to a new owner.

“People have said, ‘If I have never had an issue, shouldn’t I be allowed to keep my permit?’” Katz said. “Yes, but a new owner does not get credit for 20 years of good behavior by an old owner.”

Katz said the 2015 law helped the village look at the short-term rental picture by requiring people to register and conform to village laws. Most of the short-term rentals in the village became registered, and permits are now renewed yearly. However, there were still issues with pre-existing non-conforming structures and other heavily debated issues, such as the rentals being owner occupied.

“That law established regulations, which was crucial ... to having a definitive village list, and it took people who were running illegally and (made them legal),” he said.

The law will not be in effect during the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekends, but will be in effect during the longer summer tourist season.

Katz said he thinks the long-term intent of the law is to reduce short-term rentals in areas zoned for residential use.

“I’d like to see a future where there are more housing options for people who want to live here, either owners or renters,” he said.

“From where I sit, I would rather have ... the Railroad Inn open with 21 rooms than have seven houses with three rooms for rent each,” he continued. “I think having one commercial hotel is much better than taking the seven houses out of long-term use.”

Katz said the trustees could approve the new law tonight, based on turnout and feedback from the public. But even if the trustees feel the proposed law needs tweaking, the fix would come before the moratorium expires in March.

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