Public Hearing: Short-Term Rental Law

The Chatham Town Board has finally come up with a proposed Short-Term Rental (STR) Law to vote on, and it is time for the Public Hearing. You can read and download the STR draft here. It’s short, sweet, and full of common sense.


Reminder: To those who may be new to our community and this issue, the last administration lost the election by a large margin because they attempted to drastically overreach on their proposed zoning laws. Our fellow citizens spoke loud and clear that we want our property owner rights to be respected.

The new administration created a STR Draft based on 2 years’ worth of public comments and concerns that respects both the rights of the property owners and also of their neighbors. The found a solid balance between the two that should satisfy the majority of our citizens.

The other purpose is to collect concrete data to understand how many STRs we have and if they really are the problem the past administration felt they were. Facts need to drive all potential laws, not unsubstantiated fear.

To make your life simpler, we copied and pasted the STR draft below. Unlike the last administration’s overreach, this one is reasonable and created for the purpose of protecting both property owners and their neighbors but also to gather factual data so our town can be fully informed on how many STRs actually exist and where they are.

Once the Town Board has factual data, they can determine if more stringent STR laws are needed. As any law, this STR Draft is fluid and will change as warranted. But we must start somewhere, and this draft is a very sensible start.

Bottom-line Proposed STR Law:

  • Permit is required
  • Occupancy limit
  • Parking plan (any on-street parking must abide by Town Code)
  • All STRs must have a designated local contact person
  • Must obey the noise laws in current Town Code
  • Fire safety recommendations (smoke and carbon-dioxide detectors, evacuation plan, emergency numbers, etc.)
  • “Good Neighbor Statement” shall be provided to each Visitor
  • Fines for violations of the Town Code and Federal/State laws
  • Revoking of permit if STR owner gives false information or violates the STR law

Write to the Town Board and/or Attend the Meeting!

Please attend the Public Hearing online, but if you cannot (and even if you can), please email the Town Board at chatham@chathamnewyork.us your thoughts on the STR Draft so your opinion can be part of the public record.

We will update this post with the link once it is provided by the Town Board, but you may also go to the Town of Chatham website to keep updated on all virtual meetings, which the Town Board has been conducting all throughout COVID lockdown.

Why do we need STRs?

Many of us have or will inherit our family homesteads. We all want a way to hang onto those cherished memories, while still being able to pay the tax bills and also come back to visit our beloved community. Plus, we need lodging for our extended families to stay in when they visit. There’s a reason we have no Motel 6 here. Because this area does not have gigantic lodging needs. STRs are a perfect solution to serve our community, our area businesses, and our lives.

What is Airbnb doing to prevent “party houses”?

Airbnb itself has cracked down on “party houses” with their new rules: “Open-invite parties and events are prohibited in Airbnb listings. This includes any party or event where the listing host has limited knowledge of the attendees, or that does not have a specific guest list, such as gatherings advertised on social media.”

Airbnb has also restricted anyone under 25 from renting a property near where they live, to further avoid the “party house” issue.

LOCAL LAW NO. 2 of the Year 2020

Be it enacted by the Town Board of the Town of Chatham as follows:

I. Purpose: The Town Board finds that it is in the interest of public health, safety
and welfare to regulate through a permitting process the use of short-term
rental lodging facilities occurring within the Town through the enactment o
the following Local Law.

II. Definitions: Below are definitions of terms utilized in this local law, as needed.
If any definition herein shall be inconsistent with any other section of the Town
Code and /or Zoning Law, the definition herein shall control.

Good Neighbor Statement – a Good Neighbor Statement is a leaflet that shall contain
pertinent information that will help STR Visitors understand the house and property they
are renting, the neighborhood they are in and relevant sections of the Chatham Town
Code. Such a leaflet should include such things as the boundaries of the property, and
reference to the Town Code on subjects such as noise, trash and parking.
Lodging Facility: Any hotel, motel, inn, bed and breakfast, dwelling, dwelling unit or
other establishment providing sleeping accommodations to visitors for compensation.

Short-Term Rental (STR): The rental of a dwelling, dwelling unit or other establishment
to a Visitor for less than thirty days. This definition specifically excludes hotels, motels,
bed and breakfasts and inns.

Short-Term Rental Local Contact Person: A Person that is the second contact for
Short-Term Rental issues. This person must live within twenty (20) miles of the Rental
he/she represents.

Visitor: A person visiting or residing in the Town of Chatham for less than thirty days.

Short-Term Rental Regulations:
A. No real property within the Town of Chatham shall be used or rented as a
Short-Term Rental without an annual Permit issued by the Town of Chatham Code
Enforcement Officer. Such Permit shall include, but is not limited to, the property
owner’s name, address, phone number, email address and contact person’s information
and the following:

  1. Permit fee of $100.00 annually.
  2. Permits issued for Short-Term Rentals shall be non-transferable and shall
    immediately expire upon any change of ownership of the premises. Any new
    owners must obtain a new permit prior to any rentals.
  3. Short-Term Rentals located outside of the Hamlet (H-1 and H-2) zones shall
    have a base occupancy allowance of up to 8 visitors unless there are more
    than four bedrooms. For each additional bedroom up to three, there may be 2
    additional visitors per bedroom. Short Term Rentals located within the Hamlet
    (H-1 and H-2) zones shall have a base occupancy of no more than 6 visitors.
  4. A depiction of the allowed parking on the premises.
  5. Short Term Rentals shall be allowed in all zoning Districts of the Town as
    defined in the Town of Chatham Zoning Law subject to the provisions of this
    local law.
  6. Every owner of a Short-Term Rental shall register for a permit within 120 days
    of the passage of this Short -Term Rental law and renew such permit no later
    than January 31 of each succeeding year.
  7. Short -Term Rentals located outside of the Hamlet (H-1 and H-2) zones shall
    be limited to two (2) STR’s per property, with only one STR unit permitted per
    structure. STR’s located within the Hamlet (H-1 and H-2) zones shall be
    limited to one (1) STR per property, with only one STR unit per structure.

B. In the event of an occurrence which requires intervention by the Town Code
Enforcement Officer or other official charged with enforcement of local laws within the
Town, the owner of the Short-Term Rental shall receive the first contact, not the contact
person. The owner is responsible for responding to any complaint or occurrence
requiring action involving an STR in a timely manner.
The owner is responsible for
responding to the service of any legal process and all other notices. If the owner is not
available or not able to take the required action in the appropriate time, the local contact
person will then be contacted. The Owner may designate the local contact as the initial
point of contact by written notification to the Town Code Enforcement Officer.

C. All Short-Term Rental Owners must maintain a local contact person. The owner
shall provide to the Town, at the time of Permit application and thereafter as necessary,
current contact information for the local contact person, including the name, address,
phone number, and email address. It shall be the responsibility of the owner to ensure
that the Town always has the most current contact information for the designated local
contact person.

D. Noise shall not exceed the limits prescribed in the Town Code.

E. Off-Street Parking shall be in accordance with the Town Code and as specifically
delineated in the Permit application and Permit.

F. All Short-Term Rentals shall comply with the following fire and safety
recommendations as applicable.

  1. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must be installed and operational.
  2. Short-Term Rentals must have a 911 emergency number visible from the
  3. Short-Term Rental owners shall provide visitors with emergency lights, an
    evacuation plan with marked exits and a list of emergency numbers.

G. A copy of the Permit and the owner’s contact information shall be displayed in all

H. A “Good Neighbor Statement” shall be provided to each Visitor. The STR owner,
contact person or representative shall review this statement with Visitors to avoid
trespassing on private property and possible violations to the Town Code such as, noise,
parking and littering.

I. Fines or penalties.
When applicable, fines and penalties shall be imposed by the Town in accordance with
those set forth in the Town Code and applicable State or Federal laws. Failure to
comply with the Town Code may result in the forfeiture of the STR Permit. Failure to
provide current contact information for the owner or the local contact person, or the
provision of inaccurate information on the permit application may result in the forfeiture
of the STR permit.

J. Severability
If any clause, sentence, paragraph, word, section or part of this law shall be adjudged by
any court of competent jurisdiction to be unconstitutional, illegal or invalid, such
judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder thereof, but shall be
confined in its operation to the clause, sentence, paragraph, word, section or part
thereof, directly involved in the controversy in which said judgment shall have been

K. Effective Date.
This local law shall take effect immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State’s

Chatham Residents Are For Reasonable Zoning, Not Restrictive Zoning

The Town Board didn’t listen to the residents — again. The Board continues to push ahead with a proposed zoning law that will severely restrict residents’ property rights, hurt local businesses and trades and discourage people from improving their land and the quality of their lives in our Town.

On September 30, 2019, the Town Board released and submitted for County review their latest version of the proposed zoning law. It contains just as many burdensome restrictions as the last version of the proposed law, which hundreds of residents rejected at a public meeting. Its contents make it clear that the Town Board is out of touch with the residents. 

Below are some examples of the onerous  zoning restrictions in the revised law which the Town Board plans to adopt after the election.

* The proposed zoning law now contains over 230 pages of incredibly detailed and weighty regulations which are single spaced with small print — nearly three times more lengthy than the law submitted by the original Zoning Implementation Committee (ZIC) to the Town Board at the end of 2015. These voluminous regulations are more appropriate for Westchester County or Long Island, not a rural town like Chatham. Why do we need so many regulations in our Town?

* The proposed zoning law mandates that 85% of residents’ land in the rural districts must be kept as open space.  (Section 180-32(C)(2)). Residents are not allowed to develop their property in any way if the open space drops below 85%.  So, if you live on a smaller lot with a driveway, house and a pool and you don’t have 85% open space now on your land, you can’t add a garden shed or gazebo. This constitutes a brazen taking of land by the Town Board. Why would the Town Board want such an onerous restriction in our rural Town?

* The proposed zoning law mandates that only 6% of residents’ land in the rural district can be covered by impervious surfaces (i.e., buildings, driveways, patios, etc.).  So, if you have a small lot with improvements now, you may exceed the 6% and may not be able to build anything else on your land.  Residents improving their land increases local taxes and make peoples’ lives better. Why does the Town Board want to severely restrict residents in this way? 

* The proposed zoning law makes it difficult for residents to put small accessory structures on their land (e.g., garden sheds, pools, gazebos, patios, etc.). For example, in the hamlet districts which have a broad range of parcel size and configurations, accessory structures are not allowed in the front yard between the street and the house. (Section 180-36(D)(7)). So,        residents with larger lots and long driveways can’t use the front of their land. Then, curiously, the section immediately following (Section 180-36(D)(8)) directly contradicts that rule.

* The proposed zoning law prohibits accessory structures located closer than thirty-five feet from your home. (Section 180-36(D)(6)). This prevents, for example, people from putting a woodshed close to their house so they don’t have to walk in the snow and rain to get wood for their fireplaces. Throughout the Town there are countless accessory structures close to homes. Why are they a problem now?

* The proposed zoning law prohibits residents from expanding their homes to add an accessory apartment for their elderly parents or family members.  (Section 180-36(C)(2)). Interestingly, the law allows home expansions for other uses, but not for in-law apartments. Why does the Town Board want to discourage this form of affordable housing for our families?

* The proposed zoning law requires residents to go through a site plan approval process with the Planning Board to build an accessory structure over 700 square feet, such as a pool with a deck or a 3-car garage, in the rural districts.  (Table 2, Section 180-36(E).  This expensive process will take months to complete.  Comically, the law allows homes to be built as large as 15,000 sf (Section 180-32(C)(2)) without site plan approval (Section 180-29(B)(1)) but requires it for a small garage. 

These pointless and onerous restrictions on residential land will increase the number of people seeking variances from the ZBA (through a lengthy and expensive review process) because they simply want to improve their land. It doesn’t make any sense. Other proposed zoning regulations don’t make any sense, either:

* The proposed zoning law imposes oppressive noise regulations which curtail people’s enjoyment of their land.  Section 180-58(DD) states for swimming pools that “human voices shall not be objectionable to the occupants of any neighboring property.”  So, kids having fun in a pool and making noise in the summer would be in violation of the zoning if a disgruntled neighbor found it objectionable. This zoning restriction is illegal because it gives your neighbor control over your land. Is this what we want for our Town — zoning that pits neighbor against neighbor? 

* The proposed zoning law prohibits commercial lawn mowers from mowing residents’ lawns before noon on Sundays.  (Section 180-49(B)(8)).  However, residents are allowed to mow their own lawns before noon; they just can’t use a commercial landscaper. Why does the Town Board care when landscapers mow peoples’ lawns? 

* The proposed zoning law prohibits contractors from doing any work before noon on Sundays.  (Section 180-49(C)(3)). This hurts the tradesmen in our town who need to work in the summer and on weekends to feed their families. Tradesmen have stated that they will increase job costs to homeowners if they can’t work on weekends to complete a job. Why does the Town Board choose to punish local tradesmen who are a vital part of our community?  

* The proposed zoning law wants to stop contractor noise on Sunday mornings, but, comically, it allows personal firing ranges to create noise on Sunday mornings without any limitations (Section 180-49(B)(16)).

* The proposed zoning law permits Zero Lot Lines and adds “Townhouses” (defined as three or more attached units) as permitted uses (with Special Use Permit) in Hamlet and RL-3 Zones. Not only will this intensify the population in those areas, it ignores a 2017 source water survey which concludes that hamlet water supplies are already strained. Dense townhouse developments will further strain the quantity and diminish the quality of the water supply in those areas. The hamlet and rural zones represent our history and our rural character. Why would we alter the character and landscape of our historic countryside by allowing this type of development?

* The proposed zoning law severely restricts residents’ rights to rent their homes for short stays on Airbnb and similar websites to earn extra income to pay for taxes, school tuition, home repairs, and making ends meet. The proposed law now contains twelve pages of burdensome regulations targeted at stopping short-term home rentals. Meanwhile NYS is looking at ways to welcome short-term rentals, and has determined putting sales tax on them will bring in over $100 million in revenue for the state, of which Chatham would get its cut. Why are they restricting something that our NYS Governor wants to support?

* The Town Board claims limiting short term rentals (there are less than twenty in Chatham) will somehow increase the inventory of affordable year-round rental units. Yet under the revised law, citizens who rent out their homes in the traditional way will be liable for fines and possible jail time for loud noises created by their tenants, even though the homeowner had nothing to do with making the noise. (Section 180-49(E)).  Why would we discourage landlords from renting the young families who would otherwise remain or choose to live in Chatham, and who keep Chatham diverse and vital?

* * *

The Town Board spent almost four years creating this onerous zoning law and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lawyers and consultants to help prepare the law. To be clear: the Town Board used our money to develop and promote a restrictive law that takes away our property rights.  

It’s vitally important that residents send a message to the Town Board that we don’t want their overbearing zoning law. We must stand together to protect our Town, our property rights and our rural way of life. We need to vote on November 5 for new leadership that will listen to residents and adopt zoning that is reasonable, not unduly restrictive.