Howarth: Character of Village Must Be Preserved

Letter from Jim Howarth

Character of Village
Must Be Preserved

Last week, the Cooperstown Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously turned down a special use permit for the owners of 40 Lake Street to allow short-term rental tenants. I am writing to thank the ZBA for their decision.

While one cannot know the motivation for the board’s decision, it seems obvious that the regulation that such rentals must be an “incidental use” to the property played a part. Their proposal would have made 80 percent of the residence available for short-term rentals. That’s a primary use of the property—not incidental.

While this fact was very clear, I hope that more subjective and qualitative factors played a part in the board’s decision. In the wording that governs short-term rentals, there is a regulation that states that traffic—vehicular or pedestrian—cannot “disturb the residential character of the immediate neighborhood.”

It is precisely the issue of “character” that motivated over 20 neighbors to write to the ZBA and prompted dozens to attend the meeting. ZBA Chair Susan Snell noted that the board had never received that many letters on any pending change. There were no letters in support of the special use permit nor did any attendees at the meeting speak in support of it.

The Lake Street neighborhood is diverse—having large homes and small homes and old and young residents. But all the citizens share the values of consideration of their neighbors’ privacy and respect for their community. Clearly, these values are not compatible with the congestion, noise and potential safety issues associated with short-term, seasonal rentals. The people truly spoke their hearts and minds on this threat last week—and the system worked.

Again, I commend the ZBA for their decision. It was important for the community and important for Cooperstown if we are going to retain our quality of life.

Jim Howarth

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