Hurley officials meet with residents, discuss Airbnb, expanding cable access, other issues

Hurley town supervisor John Perry

Two Hurley officials held a special listening session at the West Hurley Fire House on Monday evening, March 5, drawing nearly two dozen residents from the Glenford and West Hurley areas, as well as from elsewhere in the town of almost 7000 residents. Although only town board member Mike Boms and supervisor John Perry were the only town officials on hand (with Boms noting that there was also a town planning board meeting the same evening), discussion was lively, with several key issues arising.

Glenford resident Tobe Carey kicked things off by requesting that the town look into telecasting its meetings on public access cable, and maybe even streaming them on the town’s website. He added that the time might also be ripe for taking a serious, committee-led look into the state of telecommunications in Hurley.

Later, Perry and Boms spoke at some length about ongoing negotiations for increased cable access throughout the town, noting answers from Time Warner/Spectrum that essentially added up to a flat “no” unless the town can pay for access. That led to discussion of whether such costs, which were estimated at about $7 per month if shared across all town taxpayers, might be best paid for via the creation of a special district. Why not, some in the audience wondered? After all, the town’s childless pay for school taxes, but an Internet-ready town would be a boon for all? “Because seniors on a fixed income wouldn’t want to pay for someone else’s cable if they already have it,” Perry answered.

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The supervisor later agreed that he’d look into setting up a committee to deal with all such telecommunications matters. He added that state funding for increasing broadband wasn’t available in any meaningful amounts for Hurley, given how much of the town has access already.

West Hurley resident Sal Miccio brought up a street drainage problem causing dangerous ice conditions at the junction of John and Wildwood streets in his hamlet. He noted having contacted town highway superintendent Mike Shultis about the situation; Perry replied that Shultis had just had spinal surgery and it would be some days before he could deal with the situation. Others talked about different drainage problems resulting in other ice situations, or flooded basements. Miccio suggested new drainage ditches and a culvert.

Perry said he’d be in touch with Shultis and set up site visits to look more closely at what was going on.

Questions arose in regards to needed upgrades for the town’s Main Street, home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of pre-Revolution stone houses, including sidewalks and buried power lines.

Airbnb concerns

The supervisor said he’d been in discussions about possible funding for such matters with state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who noted that while there was some state money available, Hurley’s definition as a bedroom community worked against it.

This led to talk about the possible creation of an architectural review board to help oversee growth in town, especially along the Route 28 corridor, which in turn led to Perry talking about his plans to deregulate “some of the zoning there” on Route 28, especially between the Stewarts and where Route 375 leads to Woodstock.

“It would be great to get some antique shops, a café in there. Bring it back to life,” Perry said. “Nothing too dramatic…right now it’s restricted to residential homes.”

Continuing, the supervisor suggested that this might be the town’s best area for Airbnb rentals.

“That’s where I’d like to zone those for,” he said, noting how many people he’d spoken with while campaigning last fall who expressed fears about short term rentals and the party-sorts they might bring to town. He added that he was speaking to “an architect in town” about some proposals for changing the zoning so that if and when Airbb rentals occurred in Hurley, they’d settle in along the Route 28 corridor.

Some audience members expressed concerns about regulating where Airbnb rentals would be allowed; others said they didn’t want to see any in town. Perry spoke again, this time about special use permits and his own fears of zombie houses, as well as how he was planning to send out crews to cut grass around town if it got over ten inches in height, then bill such properties’ owners.

Someone used the term “domino effect” in relation to short term rentals. One man spoke in terms of transient people “just bringing problems into our town. It ravages the neighborhood.”

Perry’s challenger for supervisor last November, former Woodstock supervisor Tracey Kellogg, pointed out how other towns have regulations already. Perry said he’d talk to them.

Meanwhile, a quick glance at the Airbnb website while the discussion was ensuing showed 28 homes and rooms available for rent this coming weekend for prices ranging from $300 to $25 a night.

At meeting’s close, Perry said he was working to set up new “checks and balances” on the town’s committees, which he said hadn’t changed in years and were in fact missing members in many cases.

“I’m trying to bring in new energy, new life,” he said. “We’re also looking to update our website. I’m speaking to an IT professional. Maybe people will be able to make payments directly online.”

He added that people interested in joining committees, including the Hurley Zoning Board of Appeals, should contact town hall.

“We’re trying to get more modern,” the supervisor said.

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