By Mark Reynolds
Dan Critchett was roundly criticized by his neighbors at a public hearing before the Lloyd Planning Board on his application for a special use permit to officially establish rentals at his home at 7 Greatview Lane. Last October, the Town Board passed a short term rental law, which brought Critchett before the Planning Board for their review.
Joan Kelley, whose property borders the southern side of Critchett’s property, informed the Planning Board that he has been renting out his home for more than a decade and strongly objected to granting Critchett the special use permit.
Kelley described a typical scene at his pool, which sits right up against her property line.
“When he has guests there, there is a great deal of noise. The pool acts as a sounding board and it seems like every young child who sees the pool immediately feels like they have to scream,” she said.
Kelley said Critchett once rented to West Point Cadets who held a loud raucous pool party at 2am.
Kelley cited the town’s Short Term Rental law, which states that noise is a factor that the Planning Board must consider when approving a special use permit.
“So this is one of the criteria that’s used in deciding whether a Special Use Permit should be approved, and in this case I would say the noise is offensive,” Kelley said.
Kelley noted that the rental law also says that a short term rental home has to be in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the district. She further noted that a number of safety issues have occurred at Critchett’s home.
“On one occasion the fire department had to come because of smoke billowing from the house because somebody decided to use the fireplace without opening the flue,” she said.
Kelley said she has also witnessed people flicking cigarettes off into dry leaves and inexperienced people operating grills that once resulted in an entire bush going up in flames that was as high as the house.
“The bottom line is that people who rent these houses are not residents, they’re vacationers. They think they’re here at some kind of resort and think they can use the entire area as a recreational area; it’s not safe,” she said.
Kelley submitted a signed petition to the Planning Board showing that, “every single member of the neighborhood is opposed. So based on this, I think there’s rationale for you [planning board] to say no, we cannot allow this special use permit.”
Neighbor Bruce Epperson said his and Critchett’s properties lie within a section called the Great View Estates that was established in 1975. He said the developer at that time entered into a set of restrictive covenants for a subdivision that has since remained virtually unchanged. One key provision states that, “No part of the premises shall be used for any purpose other than for private residential purposes.” He noted that the covenants refer to the non-commercial, non-public domestic use of each dwelling unit.
Epperson quoted a section in the Zoning code [Sec. 100-6 (B) Application of Regulations] to back up his argument.
“This chapter shall not be deemed to affect, in any manner whatsoever, any easements, covenants, or other agreements between parties, except that where this chapter imposes a greater restriction upon the use of buildings or land or upon the erection, construction, establishment, moving, alteration, location, or enlargement of buildings than is imposed by easements, covenants, or agreements, or by public ordinances, rules, regulations, licenses, certificates or other authorizations, the provisions of this chapter shall prevail.”
Epperson stressed that while the town’s land use attorney, Paul Van Cott said this only applies to provisions that are more restrictive, Epperson pointed out that the Short Term Rental ordinance, “does not impose a greater restriction, it is a less restrictive permit [and] it’s not more restrictive than what is currently allowed.”
Epperson concluded by saying that the Planning Board should not issue Critchett a Special Use Permit, “because it cannot be issued.”
Laurie Patterson’s home borders the northern side of Critchett’s property and has had to endure visitors who allow their dogs to roam freely onto her property, garbage that is often left to pile up, and people driving recklessly on her country road.
“It is a neighborhood where you expect permanent residents, not vacationers,” she said. “Our property is devalued since we are adjacent to a rental, which is not in keeping with the character of our cul-de-sac. Unfortunately, it is uncomfortable, to say the least, having unaccountable strangers literally right outside the window.”
Robert Benson affirmed what his neighbors told the Planning Board, recalling that ten years ago they all went through similar issues with Critchett and were unable to prevent what was taking place on the property. Benson asked the board to imagine that if this was happening in their neighborhood, what would they do.
Planning Board Chairman Scott McCarthy said he would review the restrictive covenants that Epperson submitted. Attorney Van Cott, however, said the deed restriction comments are separate from other comments from the neighbors on the impacts of this rental property. He said the, “Town of Lloyd does not enforce deed restrictions between private parties,” insisting that disputes among neighbors concerning the applicability of deed restrictions is a matter they should resolve.
Van Cott did not respond to an email request from the Southern Ulster Times to cite a statute or local or state law that supports the advice on deeds that he provided to the Planning Board.
The Planning Board held open the public hearing to next month as they review all of the relevant documents. McCarthy said he and a few other board members would visit Critchett’s home and the homes of bordering neighbors Kelley and Patterson to gain a better understanding of the issues at hand with this application.
Van Cott urged the board during their visit to see if there are any conditions they could impose upon Critchett, “that might help to mitigate some of those impacts.” As he was speaking Kelley was shaking her head no.