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No decision yet on rental moratorium

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen Cassadaga Village Attorney Joe Calimeri, left, explains the difference between tabling the discussion to a later date and rescinding the legislation to the Village Board.

CASSADAGA — The Village Board held a standing-room-only crowd this week, with members of the community out in full-force for a public hearing regarding a proposed short term rental moratorium.

But after one hour and 24 minutes of public comments and every community member in attendance who wished to speak shared their stance on the matter, a vote eventually came — but along with it came no immediate clarity on the issue one way or the other.

The board voted 4-1 in favor to table the discussion until the next meeting, likely to be set for Aug. 24.

Trustee Rachyl Krupa was the one dissenting vote against tabling the currently proposed moratorium until the next meeting. She expressed a desire to rescind the currently constructed moratorium entirely.

Emotions from all across the spectrum were displayed throughout the walls of that crowded building on Wednesday, from anger and frustration to tears shed and pleas for civility and compassion for one another from members of the community.

Kim Collins, owner of The Blue Oar Lakehouse on Cassadaga Lake, reads a letter to the Cassadaga Village Board on behalf of another community member. Collins presented the board with a stack of letters from the community.

Susan Asquith of Cassadaga spoke to a list of concerns she had about the moratorium and the issue as a whole. She highlighted one point in particular stating, “Loss of community. Well, what is happening here is the definition of loss of community.”

Asquith concluded her public remarks by stating, “We are here tonight to address a lack of awareness that is breaking this small-town character residents are desperate to preserve. I’m hoping you are all listening.”

One of many that presented the board with letters to take into account 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 stack of letters from interested parties Collins presented the board. The letter stated Verost and her brother inherited their Cassadaga home after the death of their father in 2020 and that “renting it out affords us the opportunity to keep it in our family.”

Kathy Thorp, a resident of Cassadaga, read aloud a letter from her sister and then shared her own sentiments. “I love everybody on every side, so it’s difficult to take sides because you’re all my friends,” she said. “But I have to say that I agree there should not be a moratorium. I feel like this all should be we let the (zoning) committee do their thing, bottom line, and figure out if this is really what we need.”

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen Cassadaga Village Trustees Rachyl Krupa, left, Cynthia Flaherty, center, and Mayor William Dorman, right, listen to public comments at Wednesday’s hearing.

Supporters of the moratorium for the purpose of regulating short-term rentals also shared their opinions on why legislation is necessary.

“I am not opposed to all Airbnbs, although they are a business in our community. Every business in our community has zoning regulations. … An Airbnb business has zero regulations,” said Tom Beichner, a speaker in favor of the moratorium. He also spoke about his concern that if unregulated, short-term rentals will become so prevalent that full-time residents could be priced out of buying a permanent residence in the village.

On multiple cases throughout the public hearing, members of the audience insulted the members of the Village Board and questioned their ethics and character. Speakers on both sides of the issue also spoke about what one speaker called, “the grief so many of us have experienced as a result of this proposed law.”

Beichner credited the village board and the zoning committee for their efforts throughout this process. “People have degraded them and said nasty things about them. It’s uncalled for in this village, or anywhere,” he said.

After the conclusion of the public hearing, the board moved forward with the rest of the regularly scheduled meeting. Once the short-term rental moratorium topic was raised by the board, Cassadaga Village Attorney Joe Calimeri clarified the difference between a vote to table the conversation and a vote to rescind the moratorium entirely.

“The question ultimately comes ‘What is the goal of the board?’ If the goal of the board is to reconvene to take into consideration the comments of the zoning committee, the comments of the public, and your own self-reflection, you are better off withdrawing the motion, because you are going to have a whole new document which you’re going to have to introduce,” said Calimeri.

The majority of the board favored the option to table the discussion until the next meeting.

“My only concern is — and I’ve been concerned — that we don’t get to hear both sides of the story,” said Mayor William Dorman. “… My preference would be to table it until the next meeting to look at the different stuff we got tonight.”

Other options available to the board at Wednesday’s meeting included a vote to adopt the moratorium or a vote to rescind it entirely, whether for the purpose of starting over with entirely new legislation or to not draft any legislation regarding the short-term rental issue. 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 need to take place.

“Rescinding is starting from scratch as if the bill being introduced did not exist. Tabling it is leaving open the possibility that you may adopt it, but at least allowing the conversation. It all comes down to what your preference is,” said Calimeri.

After that point, the board progressed to a vote to table the discussion.

“I would like to make a motion to table it to the next meeting so we can look at it and really zero in on all the information we’ve gotten tonight,” said Trustee Cynthia Flaherty. “There’s actually more options than just moratorium or no moratorium. There are other options out there.”

Moving forward, the moratorium will likely be raised at the next meeting, Aug. 24, however that does not ensure a resolution. The board could continue to table the moratorium as long as it sees fit. The legislation could also still be adopted or rescinded at a later date, as well.

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