Hearing to rezone Main Street business district could be closed soon
New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers indicated that a public hearing on a law to simplify business zoning in the village may get closed at a meeting in August. It’s typical for public hearings on any law change to be left open over the course of several meetings, to ensure that anyone with an opinion can share it. Rogers considers these hearings to be a way to test a new idea with a public vetting before committing to it.
The essence of this change would be to convert the B-1 limited business district along Main Street into an extension of the B-2 core business district. The standards in the core business district are what contribute to the look of the downtown: multi-story, mixed-used buildings that are close to the sidewalk and each other, with residential apartments above ground-floor retail or office businesses. If approved, the change would add 23 more uses for buildings, including car washes, bars, hotels, computer sales and laundromats. Strictly residential uses, including long-term care facilities would no longer be allowed, nor would new nursery schools or houses of worship. These would be considered preexisting, non-conforming uses in any building where they are in force now, which means that those uses could remain, but could not be expanded in the future.
Refrigerator for new food pantry planned
The need to feed those in need is not going away anytime soon in New Paltz, and residents are rising to the challenge. One idea that’s now moving forward a little bit easier is a community food refrigerator. Millions of Butterflies founder Mariabella Rivera-Todaro spoke with trustees of the village about the 21.9-cubic-foot refrigerator that has been purchased with funds raised by selling snacks street-side, and plans to use volunteer labor to both build the necessary platform and to keep it cleaned and stocked during certain hours. Trustees agreed to waive the fee for the building permit to get the structure and electrical hookups inspected behind Snug Harbor, where this project will be moved forward.
New law would require “good cause” for evictions in village
Village of New Paltz trustees starting talking more in depth about passing a good-cause eviction law, which would limit the ability of landlords not to renew a lease if a tenant hasn’t been a bother. It would not affect how much of a rent increase could be imposed with a renewal, but when no laws or rules are broken, a landlord would have to have a reason such as a family member in need of a home to kick out a current renter.
Brahvan Ranga, political coordinator of the advocacy group Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, expressed support for passing good-cause eviction legislation. Noting that the percentage of people making late payments is higher in New York than any other state, and that 29% of state residents are at risk for eviction or foreclosure, Ranga said that one important impact of such a law is to reduce the strain on social support systems for people who have nowhere to live.
The crux of the proposed law is to encourage communication between tenant and landlord by clarifying the rules that are already in state law, according to Mayor Tim Rogers. There is no risk of there being a state law that preempts and guts the power of this one, believes Deputy Mayor Alex Wojcik. That happened with the plastic bag ban: state lawmakers passed a law that was less restrictive than the village ordinance, but also preempted the local law entirely.
While this plan is being eyed cautiously by some landlords, Rogers believes it will be a boon by reducing the cost of tenant turnover. A public hearing will begin on August 11.
Signaling a look at noise
Village of New Paltz trustees are planning on tackling a problem that arises from time to time: revising the noise ordinance. The types and times of noise that’s restricted seem arbitrary to the mayor, and the deputy mayor doesn’t think that the “reasonable person” standard that’s applied to decide whether noise is too loud is that helpful.
Decibel readings don’t do much for noise regulation, because ambient noise such as traffic can trigger a machine in an objective way, but won’t always be subjectively disturbing. Many noise ordinances around the country instead use the standard of what a reasonable person would find too loud. It draws on the “reasonable person” legal standard, which has been applied at least as far back as 1594 in English courts. It refers to what a fictitious reasonable person might think or do under circumstances, and tends to be invoked when it’s difficult to objectively measure facts. Here, if a reasonable person would think it too loud, then it’s too loud. Wojcik believes that this is asking for a lot of subjective judgments by police officers and plans on digging for alternatives to be discussed at a future meeting.