Woodstock board sketches Comeau renovation

Town offices at Comeau. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

The Woodstock town board braved the snow to hire Walker Architecture to plan an expansion of Comeau Drive offices and sent its set of short-term rental regulations to the county for approval at its February 12 meeting.

Les Walker and his son Jess discussed a preliminary concept that includes a one-story addition to the rear of the main offices at 45 Comeau Drive. The Supervisor’s Cottage will also get a major overhaul.

“Everything from upstairs is coming down,” Supervisor Bill McKenna said. The Building Department, planning and assessor’s offices, just to name a few, are upstairs in the former home and inaccessible to those in wheelchairs or those unable to climb stairs.

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“We want to do this the way we did the (Mescal Hornbeck) Community Center,” Les Walker said. “We’ll talk to all the users.”

During the design phase of the Community Center renovation, Walker Architecture held numerous meetings with all the potential users and incorporated their input into the plans.

The addition will feature a full basement so all the departments can store “tons of stuff,” Les Walker said.

In addition to replacing all the windows, plans include installation of a central heating and air conditioning system similar to one used in the Community Center.

Town Clerk Jackie Earley noted the upgrades should significantly reduce electricity usage, since offices rely on space heaters and window air conditioners to keep the temperature at a comfortable level.

“Going out back…It’s the least noticeable from the road…It makes the most sense,” McKenna said.

Some temporary shuffling of offices may be necessary as the addition is constructed and the old space is renovated. No budget is set yet in this early phase of planning.

Short-term rentals

The town is one step closer to adopting a series of regulations and zoning changes to address short-term rentals. The town Planning Board had its turn scrutinizing the proposal from Councilman Richard Heppner’s Short-Term Rental Committee and now it’s off to the Ulster County Planning Board for final review. McKenna is aiming for a March 12 public hearing, though that may change depending on the county progress.

Under the new regulations, everyone who rents rooms or homes for under 30 days at a time will be required to register with the county and the town, pay a yearly fee and be subject to fire and safety inspections.

Such rentals must have a permit from the town under existing rules, but it is difficult to track and enforce. The new regulations classify short-term rentals separately from a bed-and-breakfast. The town will also have access to data from county-owned software that cross-references online listings with property information to better determine who is in compliance.

In trying to strike a balance between the need for long-term housing and those trying to offset their mortgage payments, the new regulations allow non-owner-occupied units with limits. Currently, the owner must be present or rentals shorter than 30 days at a time are not legal.

Non-owner-occupied rentals will be limited to one unit per owner and no more than 180 days total per year. That cap is intended to deter people from buying homes for the sole purpose of running a short-term rental business.

Nothing significant came out of the town Planning Board review, so now it’s a matter of waiting. “It looked like there were major changes coming through, but in the end, there were really no major changes,” McKenna said.

Overnight parking

The board discussed offering overnight parking passes at $100 per year or $5 per night. The passes would be valid in all town lots except for Rock City Road lot during the summer period when the town charges for day parking.

The passes would provide residents with the opportunity to park and leave town for several days or longer. It would also help close an approximate $30,000 revenue shortfall due to across-the-board cuts in AIM (Aid and Incentives for Municipalities). Woodstock also learned it must conduct an audit of Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery projects, which include Mill Hill Road and the culvert on Reynolds Lane. The audit could cost $19,500.

New building inspector

The town hired Francis Hoffman Jr. as a new building inspector at $22.70 per hour effective March 4 to help with the increase in building activity and the enforcement of the new short-term rental regulations.

Part-time building inspector Clark Kimble resigned effective January 21.

Accounting software up to the task

McKenna briefly noted the town’s accounting software, though installed in the late 1990s, works perfectly fine and he sees no reason to change it. He commended bookkeeper Pamela Boyle, Town Clerk Jackie Earley and her staff for keeping the town finances in order.

The comments were in response to occasional jabs at the town’s accounting and former Supervisor and current County Executive candidate Jeff Moran’s past missteps, which he blamed at the time on accounting software.

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