ZBA Denies Short-term Rental Application

ZBA Denies Short-term
Rental Application


Last Tuesday, March 7, 2023—in front of an overflow, standing-room-only crowd—the Village of Cooperstown Zoning Board of Appeals considered and ultimately denied an application by Mark and Margaret Curley, the owners of 40 Lake Street, to permit four of the residence’s five bedrooms to be used for short-term rentals.

Prior to the hearing, the ZBA had received 24 letters and/or e-mails, all of which expressed the writers’ objection to the application. The same was true of comments made at the hearing: the residents who spoke all opposed the application. The owners, who had purchased the house also known as Averill Cottage four months earlier, were not present. Although a family member did attend and was given the opportunity to be heard, he declined.

The emotional tone of the opposition was best summarized by the impassioned plea of Hillary LaDuke who, as an Averill descendant, said, “Averill Cottage was our homestead that was built by our family…and I can’t imagine that my ancestors, or anybody in my family, envisions this someday being a chop shop.”

At the outset of the meeting, ZBA Chairperson Susan Snell summarized the written opposition into various categories. Many opponents referred to the land-use descriptions of the Zoning Law as well as to the Village of Cooperstown’s Comprehensive Plan, which generally holds short-term rentals to be undesirable. On a practical level, some writers pointed out that it would be inappropriate to convert an historic dwelling into a boarding house, and that the narrowness of Lake Street made it incompatible with any additional traffic. Others contended that the ambience of the neighborhood’s privacy and peace and quiet would be disturbed by the proposed additional parking area and were equally concerned by the possibility of having “eight people and their guests partying in the back yard.”

On an environmental level, Bill Waller detailed the negative effect of cutting down trees on the property to accommodate the parking lot, as well as the polluting runoff that would occur from additional cars parked so near to Willow Brook.

“All the other neighbors along Willow Brook have put in mitigation systems…but there will be no effective filter between the parking lot and Willow Brook if you approve this plan,” Waller said.

Nearly a dozen local residents stated their views on various aspects of the plan, with Celia Oxley noting the underlying irony of the application in that, by reserving 80 percent of the bedrooms for short-term rentals, the result was making ownership incidental to short-term rentals rather than the other way around.

After concluding the public hearing, Zoning Board member Marcie Schwartzman mildly chided those in attendance by reminding them that the insertion of short-term rentals into the zoning law was extensively discussed at meetings which, to her recollection, only two residents attended.

Nevertheless, Schwartzman said she understood and was sympathetic to the opponents’ argument that the present application was for four rooms. However, she said she could “live with” the issuance of a special permit limited to a single bedroom, though the necessity to cut down more trees on the property would have to be resolved in the event of a renewed application,

A call to Mark Curley elicited the response that he was aware of the decision but other than that had no further comment.

2 thoughts on “ZBA Denies Short-term Rental Application

  1. Chip Northrup

    What the absentee owner applicant applied for was, under New York state law, a rooming house. After the permit was unanimously denied, one of the zoning board members coached the applicant’s representative on how to re-apply to effectively circumvent the clear intent of the law, by applying to convert one interior bedroom in the house into a short-term rental. That could turn the property into a “clown car” of transients for the Zoning Officer to try to enforce.

  2. Chip Northrup

    What the applicant proposed, under state law, was a rooming house, which is multi family. By coaching then to reapply for a one bedroom permit, the zoning board member could open the way for the house to become a clown car of transients, which would be impossible for the zoning officer to monitor.

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