By Greg Klein • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – The village of Cooperstown will stop enforcing its mask mandate as it waits for the state to rescind Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders on the coronavirus pandemic.
The village’s Board of Trustees debated the issue at the end of a three-hour meeting Monday, May 24, in the village board room at 22 Main St., but decided against calling a public hearing on revoking the statute, which was passed in August.
The trustees voted unanimously to remove mask ordinance signs from in and around the village and to relax enforcement of the law. Trustee Richard Sternberg was not at the meeting.
Cooperstown Police Chief Frank Cavalieri said he has heard the executive orders on the pandemic will be revoked July 1.
Because the village needs time to advertise a public hearing, and because there are several already scheduled for the trustees meeting Monday, June 28, Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh said the trustees could simply take the mask ordinance signs down and let it be known that enforcing it is no longer a priority for village officials. He called it a “tacit acknowledgement.”
In the past month, the Center for Disease Control and the state Department of Health have revised requirements for mask wearing, including no longer requiring people to wear masks in outdoor settings and no longer requiring people who are vaccinated to wear masks, leading municipalities to revise, repeal or revisit their laws.
Oneonta’s Common Council voted to amend its local law dealing with masks Tuesday, May 18, but that measure will still have to be approved by Mayor Gary Herzig after a public hearing Tuesday, June 1.
Cooperstown’s local law was tied to Cuomo’s executive orders, meaning it will go away once Cuomo relaxes his pandemic orders.
Because the Cooperstown law would not be changed until just before the pandemic orders are projected to disappear, Tillapaugh said he did not think it was worth the effort or expense for the village to undo its expiring laws.
Village employees took down mask ordinance signs at the village borders and on Main Street on Tuesday, May 25, and Cavalieri said his officers will not focus on mask laws going forward, unless there is another spike in virus cases locally.
In other business Monday, the trustees: Set public hearings for Monday, June 28, for several issues, including to consider granting a special-use permit to an apartment building at 10 Chestnut St. Co-owners Josh Edmonds and Francesca Zambello appeared at the meeting Monday, to show updates to their design and address misinformation about the project.
About a dozen members of the 20-person audience spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, most expressing praise or concerns about the Chestnut Street project. Although the feedback was nearly evenly split between people in favor of and opposed to the project, a group of neighbors did say they were opposed to the project at its current size.
The proposal, which was designed by River Architects, a Hudson Valley firm specializing in sustainable architecture, is for a 13-apartment complex that mirrors the look, size and footprint of the current buildings on the three-lot property, some of all of which has been vacant for years. The apartments are a combination of studio, one- and two-bedroom units, with 21 bedrooms total and therefore a zoning need for 21 parking spaces.
The trustees finished their SEQR work on the application and Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh outlined the process for the trustees and other village boards to consider the project.
Because of its density, it will require a special use permit, with other hearings to follow if that permit is granted. The look of the project will also be addressed separately, in the village’s Planning Board, Historical Preservation and Architectural Review Board and in the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Tillapaugh said the special use permit issue will not be decided June 28. Instead, the trustees will likely leave the public hearing open that night and decide the matter at a special meeting at 6:30 p.m., Monday, July 12, with a location to be announced later. The meeting June 28, could be held at a special location, too, Tillapaugh said, to allow a larger crowd.
The trustees voted unanimously to make the summer a special event, the Summer Sidewalk Season, from Friday, May 28, to Monday, Oct. 11. By making the tourism season a special event, restaurants and vendors can apply for free permits to offer outdoor vending and table service.
The trustees also set public hearings for June 28, to consider filling out a Consolidated Funding Application, to consider the use of private benches on public property and to consider the use of village licenses.
“For next month’s meeting, we’re obviously loading it up with public hearings,” Tillapaugh said.
On-street paid parking will begin again in the village, starting Saturday, May 29. The paid parking season will continue through Columbus Day.
Paid parking is in effect on parts of Main, Pioneer, Chestnut and Fair streets from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, as well as in the Doubleday Field parking lot.