Story by Lourice Angie
The Warwick Town Board held two public hearings on Thurs., Jul. 19 before the start of their regular monthly meeting at the Warwick Town Hall. The hearings reviewed proposed introductory local laws 5 and 6 of 2018, entitled (APO) Agricultural Protection Overlay and Short Term Rentals.
Agriculture Protection Moratorium
Before the floor was opened for public comment, Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton explained that the purpose of the hearing was to review the benefits of the APO District’s participation and ensure that it is consistent with the comprehensive plan.
The topic has recently surfaced because of several pending applications so it was the Town Board’s decision to place a three month moratorium on all activities associated with the Agricultural Protection Overlay District (APO), which allows moratorium of all requests and applications. During this time, the Board will review and compile all of the zoning information and recommendations associated to the comprehensive plan, and, if necessary, modify APO provisions and zoning.
Back in 2002, the Town modified their zoning and created the overlay zone. Sweeton says that it has been very successful, with many active farms including Pennings and the Warwick Valley Winery and allows the Town to proudly continue preserving farmland in Orange County while offering farms the opportunity to remain productive and diversify. The Town has received nearly a dozen applications for the APO since 2016 and all have been granted.
“We plan to do our job within the three months and we’ll have something to present within that time frame,” said Sweeton.
Farm Owners Comment on APO Moratorium
Marie Pennings, whose family has a long history of farming in Warwick, was the first to address the Board at the public hearing and said, “I came to see what the APO District could become for people like me. I think it’s a brilliant idea for the people in the Town of Warwick. It gives many people a chance to start a business and grow it and then become a bigger thing.”
Supervisor Sweeton thanked Pennings very much and said, “Your family has been here a long time and has had a lot of great impact in the farming business. We thank you very much for that.”
Warwick resident Bob Krahulik spoke on behalf of several landowners who would qualify for occlusion in the APO District, including Don Oriollo, the owner of the Blue Arrow Farm on Glenwood Rd.
“I think it’s important to take a step back from time to time and make sure that our zoning laws work. What I am here to do is to urge you to move quickly and try not to take more than the 90 days. We would be very disappointed if it were extended for a second 90 day period. Many of these farm owners have invested quite heavily in their properties in anticipation of inclusion of the APO District. We are concerned about what appears to be a hasty decision with respect to building permits that have already been issued and have nothing to do with the APO District. I will limit my comments to that as you work up provisions to the APO guidelines and we‘ll certainly look forward to being involved in the process,” said Krahulik.
The local law to place a three month moratorium on all applications, requests and activities associated and authorized by zoning law section 164-47.3, Agricultural Protection Overlay District or (APO), was adopted by the Town Board. Supervisor Sweeton concluded the hearing by providing the public with additional information and explaining that the APO allows certain benefits to those who participate and are given the ability to be in the APO by a Town Board action.
One of those things is a farm market, which is certainly encouraged by the Town Board in the community, but markets are divided by smaller and larger scales. When there is a larger scale farm market, it’s acceptable, but does require a Planning Board approval, regardless of whether it is in the APO District or not.
“This moratorium would not affect anyone in that process. They would need to continue the approval process whether in the APO or not. It is our intention to be as thorough and quick as possible and ensure that successful accomplishments are able to continue in the future and people with smaller operations are given some flexibility to do some things,” said Sweeton.
A complete copy of the law is available for inspection at the Town Clerk’s office or can be reviewed on the Village website at www.townofwarwick.org.
Short Term Rentals
Supervisor Sweeton opened the second public hearing on proposed local law #6 of 2018 entitled short term rental, saying that the idea of adopting a similar law was brought to the Board’s attention by Village of Greenwood Lake Mayor Jesse Dwyer and the Greenwood Lake Board, which spent much time looking into their law of governing short term rental operations. Sweeton said that the short term property law is respectful and does not hinder an owner’s ability to rent their property. The Town’s law will follows suit.
If enacted, the law will affect residents in the Town of Warwick but not in the Village of Warwick.
“This is not an intention to eliminate what is commonly called an Airbnb which allows homeowners to rent out a room for a short period of time. It has become a source of income for folks and we’re not looking to eliminate that. We’re simply looking to regulate three things: where they are, understand who the contact or renter is in case there is an issue, and ensure the safety of the rental,” said Sweeton.
The Board received written correspondence from Sarah Kennedy, an Airbnb representative, who wanted to inform the Town of the positive benefits of Airbnb operations, including tourism efforts, revenue, the total number of rentals listed for Warwick and more. Sweeton says he communicated back to Kennedy saying that is the intent of the Town.
Bob Krahulik, an attorney in Warwick who is also a short term rental property owner, spoke on behalf of himself and several other short term rental property owners. Krahulik expressed his full support for the implementation of the regulation saying, “I think it’s important to preserve the quality of life and property values, not only Town-wide but within the vicinity of my own properties. The Town is looking to enact rental permit requirements for all short term rental units within the Town.”
Warwick resident Bob Linguanti expressed his concerns for the use of specific words in the ordinance such as “comfort” and “well being.”
“It’s a really hard thing to argue that in a situation; it can cause a bigger fight. I’m also concerned with this being put on the building department. If it does grow, will it become a burden on the taxpayers?” asked Linguanti.
Supervisor Sweeton responded to the question saying, “The goal is to adopt a permitting fee of $150, the same as Greenwood Lake, which includes the inspection fee and will help ensure the safety and adequacy of these dwellings. There will also be a $50 annual renewal fee.”
Most residents and short term rental owners who attended the meeting were supportive of the proposed legislation and the Board anticipates that it will continue to encourage tourism in the Town of Warwick. Supervisor Sweeton recommended to the Board that the hearing remain open until the next Town Board meeting on Thurs., Aug 23. The Board will continue to accept written correspondence until then.
A Short Term Rental property is defined as any dwelling unit occupied by people other than the owner or his/her immediate family for less than 30 days for which money is charged. This also includes rentals provided by Airbnb and others. Month-to-month tenancies are not included in this. The law will require all landlords and short term rental operators to register and obtain a permit from the Town Hall. A $50 renewal fee is required in the legislation. Property inspections and permits will be conducted every year by the Town building inspector.
Restrictions in the law will include: a limit of three adults occupying any one bedroom; tenants will not be allowed to sublet the property; and specified safety features will be outlined. Failure to register as a short term rental property owner or landlord can result in a fine of up to $1,000 per day for the initial offense. Subsequent offenses will cost $500 each per day. Anyone without a valid permit who operates a short term rental or an Airbnb can be fined up to $500 per day per unit.
Approximately 112 rental properties currently appear on the Airbnb website. The proposed law can be viewed on the Town website at www.townofwarwick.org.
Town Board Declares August as Backpack Snack Attack Back-to-School Month
The Town of Warwick officially declared the month of August as Backpack Snack Attack Back-to-School Month. Backpack Snack Attack is a not-for-profit outreach program of the Warwick Reformed Church which provides food on weekends and during the summer to children in the Town of Warwick public schools. It is a vital service that grows each year, with the support of many selfless citizens in our community. The Town Board asks that people be generous in their support this August and throughout the year. President of the Backpack Snack Attack program, Shirley Puett, and volunteer Len Singer both attended.
Town Clerks Report
Town Clerk Eileen Astorino reported that fees collected for the month of June were $20,074.08 and fees paid out were $3,427.11. Astorino also announced that a bid request for the repair of a wingwall on Jayne St. in the Village of Florida was submitted by Allied Excavating in the amount of $96,660. Supervisor Sweeton noted that the engineer who set the bid for the Town Board conducted an analysis and found that the bid fell under his estimation.
“We have a $100,000 grant from the state office of Senator John Bonacic and we thank him for that, so this project will not cost Warwick taxpayers all that much at the end of the day. It needs to be done because that wingwall is falling in,” said Sweeton.
Community preservation receipts for the month of June were $91,056.55, which brings the total fund balance to $3,100,619.25.
”We have five farms that we are currently working to close by the middle of August, all partnered with both the State of NY and the federal government. The Town share will be 25% or less on those acquisitions so it’s a good stretch of our money,” said Sweeton.
Annual Senior Citizen BBQ
It is time once again for the Town of Warwick annual Senior BBQ which will be held on Tues., Aug. 28 at 11 a.m. at the Town Park, located at 117 Union Corners Rd. in Warwick. The event is free to all senior citizens residing in the Town of Warwick, but tickets are needed for entry. Tickets are available at any of the seven senior citizen organizations or by stopping by the Supervisor’s Office in the Warwick Town Hall, Mon. through Fri. between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
A special thanks goes out to the generous donations of community service organizations, the veterans groups, the Warwick Valley Rotary, and the support of many volunteers. The Board announced that seniors will be served lunch prepared by Fetch Executive Chef, Paul Karas and a complete chicken dinner prepared by local chef Mike Coleman, of Mike’s Custom BBQ.
Beautiful Flower Display
The Board hopes that visitors appreciate the beautiful flower displays throughout the Town. A special thanks went out to the dedicated volunteers of the Warwick Valley Gardeners who planted the flowers around the Town Hall and care for them weekly. Supervisor Sweeton says that this is not their only display, as they plant and maintain most public gardens throughout the Town. The Board also thanks Warwick in Bloom for the spectacular pots and hanging baskets displayed in the Village of Warwick.
The board adopted a resolution approving the following appointments at the Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park in Greenwood Lake for the 2018 season: Groundskeepers Kenneth Myles and Cameron Jacobs at the rate of $10.40 per hour; Henry Keller was promoted to senior lifeguard at a rate of $11.75 per hour; Barney J. Rudinski as a grade seven step one Department of Public Works auto mechanic at a rate of $22.30 per hour, as per the CSEA contract.
Next Regular Town Board Meeting
The next monthly meeting of the Warwick Town Board will be held on Thurs., Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Warwick Town Hall, located at 132 Kings Hwy. in Warwick NY.