Woodstock board puts cap on short-term rentals

The Woodstock Town Board voted unanimously to set a cap of 340 short-term rentals for the remainder of 2019 and will limit units in 2020 to the number registered by the end of this year. Roughly three months after passing zoning amendments regulating short-term and vacation rentals made popular by clearinghouse websites like Airbnb, the town arrived at the cap based on information from an Ulster County database compiled by comparing tax records to internet listings.

The town added a few as a cushion, arriving at 150 non-owner-occupied and 190 owner-occupied.

“People who play fairly and go by the rules and follow the law will be fine,” said Short-term Rental Committee Chair Richard Heppner.

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To date, only 30 have filed applications with the Building Department as required by the new law. The rest will receive violation letters in the mail, Supervisor Bill McKenna said.

“We’re serious about it. They need to get registered,” he said.

Those who don’t register this year may be out of luck if they want to become official for next year and they apply after the cap has been met. Next year’s cap will be set at the total number approved for this year.

Registration ensures the rental units are inspected and found to be safe and up to current building code. It also provides the town with an emergency contact when the owner is not present.

Library takes parking for granted?

Woodstock Hardware owner Vince Christofora told the town board the library is counting his 12 parking spaces across the street from the library in its calculations for what the proposed new building requires.

Christofora owns the spaces opposite the library from Tinker Street to where the Library Laundromat once stood. Over his 24 years of ownership, he has allowed patrons of the library and nearby businesses to use the spaces, but doesn’t guarantee the same arrangement in the future. “Woodstock Hardware has not given permission to use the spaces to meet the requirements of the new library,” Christofora said.

“Why are we even having this discussion since the land is owned by Woodstock Hardware,” he asked. Christofora said the library plan as discussed and presented to the Planning Board is short 18 spaces when his land is not part of the calculation.

He said he has thought of fencing off his land to demonstrate the significance of the parking issue and the congestion in the area.

Christofora said he has been told one solution is to have people park in the Lower Comeau lot and walk to the library. “They’re not going to walk in the snow or the rain,” he said.

He noted a lot of successful businesses have moved to the neighborhood including Woodstock Apothecary, Station Bar & Curio and Nancy’s Artisanal Creamery in recent years while only a few on-street parking spaces were added.

Christofora said the library plans to make the payment in-lieu-of parking to the town that those who come before the Planning Board typically pay when they can’t provide enough off-street parking and be done with it.

The Apothecary management has its employees park in the Comeau lot and Christofora and other business owners have worked out an arrangement to have their employees park behind the Christian Science Church to free up the limited on-street parking for customers. 

“We’re doing everything we can and we have a neighbor (the library) who is not interested in helping,” Christofora said.

Improved radio communication in the works

Woodstock Hardware owner Vince Christofora told the town board the library is counting his 12 parking spaces across the street from the library in its calculations for what the proposed new building requires.

Christofora owns the spaces opposite the library from Tinker Street to where the Library Laundromat once stood. Over his 24 years of ownership, he has allowed patrons of the library and nearby businesses to use the spaces, but doesn’t guarantee the same arrangement in the future. “Woodstock Hardware has not given permission to use the spaces to meet the requirements of the new library,” Christofora said.

“Why are we even having this discussion since the land is owned by Woodstock Hardware,” he asked. Christofora said the library plan as discussed and presented to the Planning Board is short 18 spaces when his land is not part of the calculation.

He said he has thought of fencing off his land to demonstrate the significance of the parking issue and the congestion in the area.

Christofora said he has been told one solution is to have people park in the Lower Comeau lot and walk to the library. “They’re not going to walk in the snow or the rain,” he said.

He noted a lot of successful businesses have moved to the neighborhood including Woodstock Apothecary, Station Bar & Curio and Nancy’s Artisanal Creamery in recent years while only a few on-street parking spaces were added.

Christofora said the library plans to make the payment in-lieu-of parking to the town that those who come before the Planning Board typically pay when they can’t provide enough off-street parking and be done with it.

The Apothecary management has its employees park in the Comeau lot and Christofora and other business owners have worked out an arrangement to have their employees park behind the Christian Science Church to free up the limited on-street parking for customers. 

“We’re doing everything we can and we have a neighbor (the library) who is not interested in helping,” Christofora said.

After learning of Christofora’s appearance at the Town Board meeting, Library Building Committee Chair Jill Fisher refuted his assertions, saying his spaces are not part of any calculations. “In our presentation to the Planning Board we made that clear,” Fisher said.

“People are getting confused because the site plan shows the surrounding area.”

The plan presented at a Planning Board pre-sketch conference shows there is parking on east side of Library Lane, the area owned by Christofora.

“We don’t have a legal right to those parking spaces,” Fisher said. “I’m going to write a letter (to Christofora) stating we’re not counting on those.”

Fisher conceded the way things are rendered on the site plan shows a dark parking area.

“Maybe that’s what’s to blame,” she said.

Permit needed for fireworks displays

Councilman Heppner reminded people a town permit is needed for any fireworks displays. Sparklers and small items are generally ok. The permit is generally for “things that have a fuse and go boom,” he said in response to loud fireworks on a recent weekend.

There are restrictions on storage and how the fireworks are used, he said. The permit requirement has been on the books for a long time, but few know about it and it is not strictly enforced. The timing is also important because of the increase in short-term rentals, he said.

The board voted to designate the Town Clerk’s and Supervisor’s office as those in charge of handling the permits. The Fire Department must be notified of planned fireworks displays and permit applications will be reviewed by the town insurance committee.

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