Over the past two years, much time and effort went into the drafting the legislation for a lodging tax--a tax, similar to a sales tax, that would be charged to guests staying in the hotels and B&Bs of Hudson. The Common Council Finance and Legal committees collaborated, reaching out to the proprietors of hotels and B&Bs, as well as people with rooms available through AirBnB, to craft legislation that would benefit both the lodging industry in Hudson and the city as a whole with a new source of revenue. The local law enacting the lodging tax was put on the aldermen's desks, as the expression goes, in August 2015, and it has languished there ever since.
For the City to impose a new tax requires an act of the state legislature. In September 2015, a resolution "requesting a bill proposal and a formal home rule request for the adoption of a lodging tax" was passed by the Common Council, but apparently that is as far as it went.
The status of the lodging tax has been a topic of discussion at the last two Legal Committee meetings. In order for the enabling legislation to happen, our two representatives in the state legislature--Didi Barrett in the Assembly and Kathy Marchione in the Senate--must introduce bills to be voted on by the two bodies, but in order for them to do that, someone from Hudson government must ask them to do it, but so far, no one has asked. The resolution passed by the Council in September 2015 concludes:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Hudson transmit this Resolution to Assembly member, Didi Barrett, and Senator Kathleen A. Marchione, requesting that a Bill be proposed and that a formal Home Rule Request be sought from the City of Hudson under Section 40 of the Municipal Home Rule Law of the State of New York.Five months have passed, and the resolution has never been transmitted. At Wednesday's meeting, Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, reported that the city clerk had been "advised by counsel" to hold on to it, and she has.
Former Council president Don Moore, who was in the audience for the meeting, explained that the delay was owing to a "policy question of who was going to present this to Barrett and Marchione." He went on to say that a member of Marchione's staff had predicted that the senator would be reluctant to support legislation that levied a new tax; therefore, it would have to be made clear that the tax would not be paid by constituents of her district but by visitors to the district. Months ago, it is also reported that someone in Barrett's office had expressed the same reservations, triggered by the word tax.
Although the discussion at Wednesday's Legal Committee meeting brought some clarity to the situation, the question of who would present the request to Barrett and Marchione went unanswered. O'Hara said he would talk with Council president Claudia DeStefano, suggesting that she may be the one to do it.
City attorney Ken Dow quoted from the city's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) to show that allowing the development of hotels in the R-S-C was in keeping with the intent and the spirit of the LWRP. He also told the Legal Committee, "It should not be left to the ZBA to grant use variances," going on to say that a use variance was an "escape valve . . . to save people from having no use of their property." He advised, "If it is the sense of the legislature that [a hotel] is a suitable use, if you think it belongs there, you should put it there [by amending Article 325-13 of the zoning code]."
O'Hara suggested that the committee go ahead with the suggested change, but Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) objected. She wanted to know what parts of the city were zoned Residential/ Special Commercial. A zoning map was produced. When she saw that there were three areas in the city currently designated R-S-C, one of them in the Second Ward, she wanted to prohibit hotels lest hotels be built in preference over affordable housing.
In the end, it was determined that a subset of R-S-C would be created, and a resolution would be proposed to allow hotels in the R-S-C district located in the First Ward (R-S-C 1) but not in the other two (R-S-C 2).
A resolution to amend what is a permitted conditional use in an R-S-C district will come before the Common Council in a special meeting to be held on Monday, March 7, at 6:30 p.m.
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