Red Hook Daily Catch

Planning Board Split on Proposed Short-Term-Rental Law, Agrees on Permitting but Little Else

The living room of a three-bedroom, three-bath home offered for short-term rent on Airbnb (photo by Airbnb).

The proposed Town Board law to heavily restrict short-term rentals in the township of Red Hook moved one step closer to becoming law last night when the Planning Board unanimously agreed that the law would not negatively impact Red Hook’s waterfront district along the Hudson River.

It remains unclear when the Town Board will vote on the bill. The public hearing that started Nov. 30 will continue remotely on Zoom on Dec. 14 – email to testify. And regulations state that the Town must give the Planning Board until Jan. 15 to submit comments and recommendations on the proposed law. But Planning Board Chairman Sam Phelan says that does not necessarily mean the Town has to wait until then to put the proposal to a vote. (Read our cheat sheet on the STR proposal).

While the five Planning Board members indicated they are split on the merits of the law – two generally in favor, two largely opposed, and one unclear – all agree that permitting STRs and requiring registration with the Town are important new regulations.

Two members, Lew Rose and Economic Development Committee Chairwoman Kristina Dousharm, said they want to see more leniency around STRs in 1- and 1.5-acre zoned residential districts and are concerned the law will hurt tourism and, hence, local businesses. Phelan and member Brian Kelly said they support the bulk of the law as written. Red Hook Village Mayor Karen Smythe did not issue conclusive statements about her views on the law.

“There is no evidence that STRs are a problem here and I didn’t see any data presented that there were complaints,” said Rose, who cautioned against what he sees as, “legislating based on intuition, speculation, and drafted in a vacuum of the facts.” 

Dousharm, who chairs the Town’s Economic Development Committee (EDC), which argues for fewer regulations on STRs, wants the Town to hit the brakes on the proposal until consulting further with businesses and studying the potential impacts of the bill. “We have heard from our brick and mortar shops, this is not something they support, ” she said, adding, “It’s clear the local law does not represent the public’s opinion and that we need more discussion before the Town moves forward.”

Kelly disagreed, arguing the law is a necessary step to rein in STRs, which he said are contributing to an affordable housing crisis in Red Hook. He also lauded the proposal’s 120-day annual cap on the number of nights an STR operator can host, saying, “I think that’s the strength of the law and there is still plenty of flexibility here.” 

At one point, Dousharm, Rose, and Phelan voiced support for asking the Town to reconsider the proposal’s ban on hosted STRs in more densely populated residential zoning districts with 1- and 1.5-acre zoning.  But the Board failed to forge a consensus on whether unhosted rentals should also be allowed in these districts, and ultimately members would not commit to signing off on a letter urging the Town to reconsider where the law would prohibit STRs. Under terms of the bill, STRs would also be forbidden, both hosted and unhosted, in the hamlets of Red Hook, Barrytown, and Annandale.

Phelan said he would attempt to draft a letter summarizing the Planning Board’s views, but he said Monday that he recognizes that there is a lack of consensus on the Board. “We just don’t have unanimity, so the letter is going to be wishy-washy, and nobody here is going to be happy with it,” Phelan said Monday at the Planning Board meeting. 

Though its views on the STR law, aside from its consideration of the impact on the waterfront district,  have no legal bearing on the Town Board, the Planning Board has weighed in on controversial matters in the past. As recently as late October, for instance, the Planning Board issued a strongly-worded letter criticizing the Town Board’s initial plan to forbid cannabis retail outlets in Red Hook Township. After dozens of public comments in support of cannabis retail, The Town Board pivoted and voted to allow cannabis retail.

One response to “Planning Board Split on Proposed Short-Term-Rental Law, Agrees on Permitting but Little Else”

  1. Richard Rizzo says:

    A waterfront district? Where in Red Hook can you stroll along the waterfront like you can in Kingston or Poughkeepsie?

Leave a Reply