Letter from Celia Oxley
There was much public opposition to the granting of a Special Use Permit for short-term rentals at 40 Lake Street. The Zoning Board of Appeals was correct to deny the permit at a hearing on March 7. From the board’s discussion after the hearing was closed to the public, it seemed that the issue of incidental use was paramount to their decision to deny. The village zoning laws require short-term rentals to be incidental to residential use. Since the owner intended to use four out of the five bedrooms in the house for transients and one for the owner, the application failed.
There were many reasons to deny this permit. Some of the reasons got little airtime because we needed to focus on what we felt was most likely to persuade the board to deny the permit. Was broad public sentiment and the history of the house unimportant? Certainly not. The law allows the village trustees and members of the reviewing boards to consider public sentiment when making a decision.
The courts have upheld a community’s right to determine the character of the community. Case in point, Middlefield and Dryden won the right to ban gas drilling; even on appeal. The courts said they had a right to cultivate their small-town character. In 2018, Cooperstown made amendments to the zoning laws in an attempt to stem the tide of investors with no stake in the community filling the village with STRs that disrupted the peace and quiet and character of our community.
The Board of Trustees and all reviewing boards need to listen now. The public set a record for letters to the ZBA. Well over 20 letter writers, and not one in favor. The boardroom was packed. No one came forward to speak in favor of the application. People who live in the village but not close to 40 Lake Street have joined our group and several have written letters. Why does this concern them? Because it is all part of our community.
We have reason to believe that the applicant will reapply. If the applicant won’t listen, the board members need to listen to the community. We are speaking loudly.