CASSADAGA — The village council held a standing crowd this week, with community members in full force for a public hearing regarding a proposed moratorium on short-term rentals.
But after an hour and 24 minutes of public comment and all of the community members in attendance who wished to speak shared their position on the matter, a vote was finally taken – but there was no immediate clarity on the question one way or the other.
The board voted 4-1 to postpone the discussion until the next meeting, which will likely be August 24.
Administrator Rachyl Krupa was the only dissenting vote against tabling the currently proposed moratorium until the next meeting. She expressed a desire to completely lift the moratorium currently in place.
On Wednesday, emotions from all walks of life ran through the walls of this crowded building, from anger and frustration to tears shed and pleas for civility and compassion towards one another from members of the community.
Susan Asquith of Cassadaga spoke about a list of concerns she had about the moratorium and the issue as a whole. She underscored one point in particular by stating, “Loss of community. Well, what’s happening here is the definition of community loss.
Asquith concluded his public remarks by stating, “We are here tonight to address a lack of awareness that is shattering that small-town character that residents are desperate to preserve. I hope you are all listening.
One of the many people who presented the council with letters to consider was Kim Collins, owner of The Blue Oar, a short-term rental property on Lakeview Avenue.
Collins read aloud a letter written by Tricia Waterman Verost, one of a pile of letters from interested parties. Collins introduced the board. The letter stated that Verost and his brother had inherited their Cassadaga home after their father died in 2020 and that “Renting him gives us the opportunity to keep him in our family.”
Cassadaga resident Kathy Thorp read aloud a letter from her sister and then shared her own feelings. “I love everyone on all sides, so it’s hard to take sides because you’re all my friends,” she says. “But I have to say I agree that there shouldn’t be a moratorium. I think it should all be that we let the (zoning) committee do its job, ultimately, and determine whether this is really what we need.
Proponents of the moratorium to regulate short-term rentals have also shared their views on why legislation is needed.
“I am not opposed to all Airbnbs, although they are a business in our community. All businesses in our community have zoning regulations. … An Airbnb business has no regulations,” said Tom Beichner, a speaker in favor of the moratorium. He also expressed concern that if short-term rentals are not regulated they will become so prevalent that full-time residents could see the price of buying a permanent home in the village taken away from them.
On several instances throughout the public hearing, audience members insulted village council members and questioned their ethics and character. Speakers on both sides of the issue also talked about what one speaker called, “the grief that so many of us have experienced as a result of this bill.”
Beichner thanked the village council and the zoning committee for their efforts throughout this process. “People degraded them and said mean things about them. It’s unjustified in this village, or anywhere. he said.
Following the conclusion of the public hearing, council continued with the remainder of the regularly scheduled meeting. Once the subject of the short-term rental moratorium was raised by the board, Cassadaga Village Attorney Joe Calimeri clarified the difference between a vote to drop the conversation and a vote to nullify entirely. the moratorium.
“The question ultimately comes ‘What is the purpose of the board?’ If the purpose of council is to reconvene to consider input from the zoning committee, public input, and your own thinking, you’d better withdraw the motion, because you’re going to have a whole new document that you going to have to present”, said Calimeri.
The majority of the board voted in favor of the option of deferring the discussion to the next meeting.
“My only concern is – and I was concerned – that we weren’t hearing both sides of the story,” said Mayor William Dorman. “…My preference would be to table it until the next meeting to go over the various things we have tonight.”
Other options available to the council at Wednesday’s meeting included a vote to adopt the moratorium or a vote to reverse it entirely, whether to start over with entirely new legislation or not to draft any legislation regarding the question of short-term rental. If the proposed legislation undergoes substantial changes from what was proposed before the public hearing, the process would start over and a new public hearing would have to take place.
“To repeal is to start from scratch as if the bill tabled did not exist. To drop it is to leave open the possibility that you can adopt it, but at least allow conversation. It all depends on your preferences.” said Calimeri.
After this item, the board took a vote to table the discussion.
“I would like to put forward a motion to table it at the next meeting so that we can review it and really focus on all the information that we have obtained this evening,” said trustee Cynthia Flaherty. “There are actually more options than just a moratorium or no moratorium. There are other options out there.
Going forward, the moratorium will likely be lifted at the next meeting on August 24, but that does not guarantee a resolution. The board could continue to file the moratorium for as long as it sees fit. Legislation could also be passed or repealed at a later date.