The Town of Woodstock declared a townwide state of emergency on Monday, enacting measures that go well beyond those recently taken by other mid-Hudson towns. Notably, the declaration responds to the concerns expressed by many upstate residents about second-homeowners fleeing the epicenter of infection in New York City to seek shelter in more rural areas, using Airbnbs and similar short-term lodging, thus potentially infecting the Hudson Valley more widely.
“In order to limit the spread of the Coronavirus from outside sources, Section 260-56 and related provisions of the Woodstock Zoning Law are suspended to the extent they permit rentals of less than two (2) weeks,” the measure declares. “These orders … are necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents, as it is felt that decreasing the volume of short-term renters to the local population appears to be a prudent means of limiting the potential harmful exposure of locals to the virus.”
The emergency declaration issued on March 30 by town supervisor Bill McKenna also pointedly mentioned “short-term rentals and places of assembly” in a provision suspending the “non-essential functions” of the town’s building department, including issuing permits and conducting inspections. This measure would effectively halt the swift conversion of residential space in Woodstock into short-term rentals taking advantage of the upsurge in demand from New York City-dwellers. Inspections of commercial business deemed essential would continue to be conducted on an as-needed basis.
Also included under the emergency declaration were provisions closing park pavilions and the basketball court at Andy Lee Field to discourage contact sports during the pandemic. Arrangements are made for conducting town, planning and zoning board meetings via videoconferencing or conference calls, and for town employees to work from home wherever possible.
On the same day, the New York State Assembly passed a temporary rule change establishing procedures for the legislature to discuss legislation and vote remotely during declared states of emergency.
Woodstock’s state of emergency was set to remain in effect for five days, with the option of renewal by the supervisor in five-day increments as long as the statewide state of emergency declared by governor Andrew Cuomo on March 7 remains in effect.