Owners of EconoLodge in New Paltz are fighting for the right to house registered sex offenders in that hotel by the Thruway. The zoning code was amended to limit the number of offenders last November, after residents expressed concern about an arrangement — allegedly in effect since 2005 — to house offenders and receive payment from the county social services budget. Registered offenders are limited in where they may live, and as the registration is public record, there are landlords who will not rent to them, meaning that an unintended consequence of requiring registration is to potentially add to the homeless population. The local ordinance, which is similar to those passed in other nearby municipalities, requires a local license for such housing, and limits the number using a formula based on the three registration levels. It’s intended to ease the concerns of neighbors that people may be on the prowl.
“We were hoping to get it beyond the statute of limitations, but they sued us,” Town supervisor Neal Bettez reported at the town council meeting held on April 15. The supervisor remarked after the meeting, “I don’t know why they’re more interested in sex offenders than tourists in their hotel.”
Deputy supervisor Dan Torres, reached outside of the meeting, confirmed that “we made efforts to get them revenue without catering to sex offenders.”
The petition to declare this ordinance unconstitutional is based largely on the idea that state law preempts any local regulation, as the registry itself is a state mandate. It’s not clear if any similar ordinances have been challenged in court, or if this is the first such case. New York is called a “home rule” state because power to pass local code is given to municipal boards like the town council, but there have been other occasions where that power is restricted. For example, cell towers and group homes can’t be blocked by zoning, as there are federal or state laws that allow these to be built when there’s a demonstrated need.
Calls made to Rina Patel — who signed court documents on behalf of the corporation — and filing attorney John W. Hillman were not returned in time for this story.