The Town Board has set a public hearing for June 8 to take comments on a nine-month moratorium on short-term residential development as it tries to address an affordable housing crisis.
The moratorium would freeze residential demolition permits and applications for transient uses, short-term rentals and residential conversions. Work on existing homes for long-term use would still be permitted.
The moratorium has a narrow focus and mainly stops hotel, motel, boarding house and short-term rental construction. It also bans conversion of residential structures to commercial use.
The town has reached its cap for units that fall under the short-term rental law, which are those that are primarily in residential buildings. (The cap is 280, with 75 of those being non-owner-occupied.) The town building department has been sending out enforcement letters for those that aren’t registered under the short-term rental law.
At the urging of the Housing Committee and a neighborhood group, the town had already begun the process of researching a moratorium and consulting with land-use attorneys. Then, a few months ago, a hotelier’s plans to buy the Lasher Funeral Home and convert it to lodging made the need to address long-term housing more imminent.
Ryan Giuliani and Jesse Halliburton, owners of Woodstock Way, were going to develop the property but have backed out of the deal. The nearly 4.8-acre property is now listed at $2.5 million.
“This is coming about mostly because of the Lasher property,” Councilman Lorin Rose said at the May 11 Town Board meeting. “I’d like to thank Peterson family for keeping it like it was for so many years. They kept it as long as they could.”
Despite a lengthy search, property owner Janet Peterson has been unable to find anyone to continue operating the funeral home. The business has struggled since her son, longtime funeral director Ken Peterson, died in 2019. A few directors succeeded him, but the funeral home has ceased operation.
Supervisor Bill McKenna said it was his understanding the family is still holding out hope for someone to revive the business.
Councilwoman Laura Ricci, who also chairs the Zoning Revision Committee, said it wasn’t just the potential Lasher sale that was the impetus.
“There was clearly a trend,” she said.
“It’s time to pause. Clearly we’re getting overwhelmed here,” said Councilman Richard Heppner, who chaired a committee that drafted the town’s short-term rental law that was designed to strike a balance between the need for long-term housing and people’s need to are extra income to make ends meet.
Heppner expressed concern committees with overlapping responsibilities would make addressing the issue more difficult.
“I’m going to suggest we start merging… create an overarching committee that can steer things through,” he said.
“We can’t have a committee over here doing one thing and another one over here doing another thing.”
The hearing will be June 8 at 7 p.m. at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center. It will be the first in-person Town Board meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic moved everything to videoconferencing.