Village board considers short-term rental moratorium
WATKINS GLEN--A member of the Watkins planning board asked for a two-year moratorium on short-term rentals at the village board meeting Tuesday, May 7.
According to planning board member Brian Eslinger, there are approximately 60 short-term rentals currently in the village. Eslinger said after researching the issue with a goal to protect the integrity of residential districts and also wanting to support residents who wish to rent properties, he would like the village to establish a two-year moratorium on future short-term rentals in the village.
"We don't want to discourage commerce, but we want to maintain the integrity of our long-term residential community," said Eslinger. "We need our business owners to be supported by a local community 10 months of the year."
Eslinger also asked the trustees to consider installing parking meters on certain streets in the village, indicating that the revenue could lessen the need to raise taxes. In his proposal, meters would be installed on Franklin Street, Fourth Street and the streets connecting Franklin to Decatur. Eslinger suggested that residents be exempt from having to pay to park. He further suggested that only residents be allowed to park in residential neighborhoods. To be recognized as a resident, people would have to complete an application, have a valid driver's license and live in the village. Those meeting these criteria would be issued a sticker for their vehicle.
The trustees agreed to consider his recommendation. Trustees also approved the 2019-'20 budget that includes a 4.19 percent tax increase. The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value will be $8.50. If you are currently assessed at $100,000, your bill will increase by $35.60.
Mayor Luke Leszyk provided comparisons for the tax rate with nearby towns. According to Leszyk, Montour Falls is currently at $8.50 per $1,000 of assessed value; towns in Penn Yan range from $14.93 per $1,000 assessed value to $16.43. Dundee comes in at $12.97 per $1,000 of assessed value.
"Fortunately, we are not like the federal government where we can run a deficit," said Leszyk. "We have to balance a budget. Last year, the budget was approved with a $40,000 shortfall that was covered with reserves. We can't take money out of the reserves. We have dwindled our reserves down now where if we have a major incident we cannot cover with our reserves because they have been depleted."
The increased revenue will be used for a variety of expenses, including health and liability insurances, payroll and street maintenance expenses and the recently adopted service award program for Watkins Glen Fire Department members. Leszyk indicated he and the trustees are looking for opportunities to cut costs.
At the May 7 meeting, the trustees also approved a local law and guidelines that will require certain businesses (for example, restaurants and mechanic garages) using oil and grease to install separators. These separators will ensure proper handling of liquid waste containing grease in excessive amounts or flammable waste, sand or other harmful ingredients.
Clearing a clogged line, according to Terry Wilcox, superintendent of public works, requires expensive equipment, usually impacts an entire street, typically requires outside help, and generally costs thousands to fix.
Finally, the trustees amended the rates that will be charged for water and sewer. Customers can expect that their bills --beginning later this summer--will increase by at least $6.25 and .70 per 100 cubic foot (over-the-minimum charge). This increased revenue will be applied to the debt service owed by the water department to the general fund, new debt that is expected, and will allow for the village to hire another trainee for the water department.