Some two dozen Cooperstown residents were almost evenly divided in comments during a public hearing Monday, December 6, to address a pending Board of Trustees vote that would find the Village opting out of allowing the retail sale of marijuana within Cooperstown’s borders.
New York legalized the sale of marijuana in April, and allowed local governments to choose whether they want dispensaries and lounges where customers could smoke on-site. To opt out, however, that same state law requires a local government to pass a local law no later than December 31, 2021. Failure to do so automatically opens the locality to dispensaries and lounges; those local governments that vote to opt out prior to the year-end deadline may repeal that local law through permissive referendum at a later date to allow for retail sale.
COOPERSTOWN – Nothing less than Cooperstown’s future evoked lively debate when, for a second time, the Village Board presented its proposed zoning law to the public.
At debate’s end, the document was approved, 6-1, with Trustee Jim Dean the sole nay. Voting aye were Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, and Trustees MacGuire Benton, Jeanne Dewey, Joe Membrino and Richard Sternberg.
The focus was a provision allowing single-family homes to be converted into three-unit dwellings.
“There’s nothing built into the new law that would prevent any of the houses from being immediately converted into multi-family units,” said Linden Summers, a local attorney. “… I can predict that all of the houses on Pioneer Street could be converted. There isn’t any control over how many units there will be.”
Ted Feury, Chestnut Street, echoed those concerns. “It can immediately be done, but you don’t necessarily get what you want. It’s nice to have a broad stroke of the brush and think it’s going to work. I don’t think the zone should be broken down without special permits.”
“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” said Rick Hulse Sr., who lives on Pioneer Street. “With our population in decline, where are we headed? … This law concerns me … it seems like we’re a little desperate.”
On the other side, Fire Chief Jim Tallman said a lack of affordable housing in Cooperstown is contributing to a decline in volunteer firefighters.
“We are seeing a lot of people that can’t afford to live in Cooperstown. It’s hard to get people to come out and volunteer. If this continues, the village will have to have a paid fire department,” he said.
Bill Streck, Bassett Healthcare Network president, said, “As a citizen, I am very concerned about our capability to support our school. It’s the heart of the community,” he said. “With our population in decline, we have to take a hard look at what has happened in our community. The ability of our organization to recruit is dependent on having confidence in our schools and finding affordable housing.”
CCS board president Tim Hayes backed the initiative as well: “We are losing people and leaking paychecks.”
“I see nothing wrong with this. I was upset when we lost the ability to have more than
five units in the same building,” said Trustee Sternberg. “I’m in favor of the law.”
“We’ve already had this in most of the village and it hasn’t ruined the village,” added Dewey.
“It expands options for housing. It’s not something unique to Cooperstown,” said Benton.
Dean said, “It’s really tough. We’ve got to be very creative along the way.”
“We see a line of men, waiting in Pioneer Park,” said Larry Bennett, Ommegang’s creative director, as he outlined his vision for a commercial before the Village Board this evening. “What are they waiting for? The camera pans up to Santa’s cottage, and Mrs. Claus welcomes him inside. He goes to Santa, Santa opens his ‘Nice or Naughty’ book, and then hands him a bottle of Three Philosophers.”
COOPERSTOWN – With the deadline for tourist-accommodation permits nearing and a moratorium in its fifth month, Mayor Jeff Katz updated the Village Board, saying he foresees tighter regulations on housing for visitors to the village.
“Clearly, the future is going to be where tourist accommodations in the village are harder to come by,” said Katz. “We’re not saying you can’t have tourist accommodations, but we’re working on bolstering the definition of owner, occupancy and owner-occupancy.”
COOPERSTOWN – Incumbents Jim Dean and Cindy Falk were nominated by acclamation this evening for their second full terms on the Village Board at the Democratic caucus at 22 Main.
Village elections are Tuesday, March 10.
Dean, who attended with wife Eileen, said “it’s been enjoyable” and he’s looking forward to a second term. Falk, who was out of town, was unable to attend, but was praised by Mayor Jeff Katz, who put her name in nomination, as well as by her colleague Dean.
The Republican caucus is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, also in the Village Board room at 22 Main.
Also at the meeting, the dozen Democrats present were alerted that Hank Nicols, former county and villageDemocratic chairman, is stepping aside as the Democratic county election commissioner, to be replaced by the current county chair, Richard Abbate.
Mark DiLorenzo, current village Democratic chair, advised the gathering he and wife Diana Nicols DiLorenzo are moving their family to Toddsville, so he will soon have to step aside.