Thursday, December 23, 2021

About Last Week's ZBA Meeting

At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Rebecca Wolff complained about the Zoning Board of Appeals, alleging that the December 15 ZBA meeting had not complied with Open Meetings Law and reporting it had been held outside and people were not wearing masks. Wolff must have gotten her information about the meeting secondhand, because at the very time the ZBA meeting was taking place, she was attending a Zoom meeting of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.

It is true the ZBA meeting has held on the steps of City Hall, but there was good reason for that. The recently imposed rules limiting access to City Hall prevented the meeting from taking place inside, and there was no response to repeated requests from ZBA chair Lisa Kenneally for a Zoom link for the meeting. There were nine public hearings scheduled for the meeting, and Kenneally did not want to cancel the meeting and make the applicants wait another month, so she went ahead and held the meeting on the steps of City Hall.

The nature of the public hearings may have been the reason for Wolff's interest in the ZBA meeting. Eight of the nine public hearings regarded variances sought by people operating short-term rentals rendered illegal by Hudson's short-term rental law, a law Wolff had initiated and continues to advance. The one-year amortization period written into the law had ended in November. On November 8, Wolff posted the following notice on Facebook:
Hi there Hudson. Our local law allows only full-time residents of Hudson to operate one or more Short Term Rental (under 30 days) on the same property as their own dwelling. The exception is for second-home owners, who can operate 60 nights per year. There are no other exceptions, and if you would like to report what you think is an illegal short term rental anywhere in the city you can use the form linked to here. It's quick and easy! If for any reason you do not wish to fill the form out yourself, you may contact me and I will do it for you!
Yesterday, Gossips learned from Kenneally the outcome of the meeting. Every one of the eight applicants seeking a variance from Section 325-28.3 of the code was granted a three-year extension.


  1. I find it less than likely that a noticed public meeting, held at (if not inside) the address where the meeting was noticed for, at the time it was noticed for, for the purposes it was noticed for, can be held contrary to the open meetings law. But I suppose the noise makes a good sound bite.

    The better question is, why is the current administration so inexorably incompetent that it can't respond to multiple requests for the very type of support it's designed to provide?

    Another good question would be, why a sitting alderwoman would question the actions of the one public officer who actually did her job in the face of multiple instances of nonfeasance from both the mayor and his IT fellow? Seems Ms. Wolfe has been co-opted by the forces of institutionalism.

    Kudos to Lisa Kenneally who's dedication to professionalism and true shepherding of the people's work is manifest. And shame on an administration that fails in the basics. We are owed an explanation for the inaction.

  2. Indeed, the forces of evil have once again proved victorious, in this circumstance. You try to save a town from itself but sometimes you can't. It's a bitter and sad turn of events, and those currently cackling over it and rubbing their greedy hands together in anticipation of the continued desecration are those who have least to lose. Rock on with your bad selves. REBECCA WOLFF

    1. The forces of evil are you: you push a law to specifically harm landlords who, in this city, are overwhelmingly mom-and-pop investors who work a lifetime to afford an investment that will support their families. The result of your illegal attempt to put the screws to these people WHO ARE OUR NEIGHBORS would be the complete replacement of our existing rental housing stock with tax payer subsidized housing that would enrich the wealthiest man in town at the expense of every tax payer. YOU ARE THE FORCE OF EVIL.

    2. This is such a bizarre, disturbing comment from an elected official, even if it is an outgoing elected official. Hopefully the new city council members will take a hard look at the damage this person has done and eliminate the STR law to allow more tourism and business and increase Hudson's tax revenue. If it is actually serious about reducing housing costs, it can also reform the zoning code, legalize accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and promote new housing construction and renovations of existing structures.

  3. Forces of evil, save a town from itself, continued desecration? Seriously? Are you living in some bizarre Star Wars inspired fantasy novel? A legislator is supposed to come to the table with facts, not push forward restrictive laws based on a warped dystopian vision of reality. That's great inspiration for a novelist, but doesn't apply well in the real world.

  4. Part of serving your constituents is identifying problems and creating solutions for individuals and groups who need it without harming other parts of your constituency. This is sometimes difficult, complicated stuff that requires a clear-eyed look at facts to craft nuanced policy that generates solutions that do not themselves generate more problems for large swaths of the community.

    Far easier to carve everyone out into tribes, name yourself the champion of the oppressed, and create short-term wins (at least on paper) for the population you deem most in need of your short-sighted heroics against the relatively passive and inattentive middle-class dragon you’ve decided to slay. (Pay no attention to that hedge fund behind the curtain, folks. Salvation awaits!)

    Ms Wolff’s Jacobin/Pentecostal mashup and my mixed metaphors aside, Ms. Wolff does raise a good point. The ZBA meetings should have taken place online, though they have been in-person since October, which, coincidentally, is when the variance applications for the STR regulations started coming in. Just for the meetings this month, one Airbnb operator received 3-year(!) extensions for 5 properties, some multi-unit dwellings, all across the city. To my knowledge, this operator lives (or did before the pandemic hit) in Brooklyn. Another operator who received a variance lives in Montclair, NJ, according to her Facebook profile.

    This is exactly the kind of investor, one disconnected from the permanent Hudson community, the STR law was attempting to regulate out, and if the ZBA is rubber-stamping their variance requests without good cause and careful consideration, there is a problem. (Recovering renovation costs is considered an acceptable reason for requesting a variance. I checked one of the properties, where I stayed briefly some years ago, and found only a letter from the owner with an estimated cost of renovation of $155,000. Based on my stay there-the frozen pipes, the broken heater, the electrical fire from shoddy wiring-there is reason not to take the applicant at their word.)

    The ZBA is currently two members short of a full team, and code enforcement is stretched thin as it is; I get it. The ZBA should have been allowed to meet on Zoom (in fact, they should have been required to meet on Zoom) and they should be given the manpower they need to consider the applications before them. If a law is unfair, it should be stricken. If a law has no enforcement mechanism or a no-excuse out, it should be amended so it actually means something. Transparency and openness are not nice-to-haves, they are basic requirements of good government.

    Hopefully the ZBA chair can shed some light on this issue so the STR law can be judged on its merits and applied evenly moving forward.

  5. Mr. Kane raises many good points. The ZBA acts as a quasi judicial body, particularly on a matter such as this, which involves an adjudication as to whether the applicant has made the requisite showing of economic hardship based on costs incurred to refurbish to make a unit suitable for a short term rental. The ZBA members are duty bound to put on "ignore" their personal opinions of the merits of the short term rental law.

    I suspect without knowing of course that the applicants failed to make the requisite showing for relief, and indeed question whether it would even be theoretically possible to make such a showing given how much rents have gone up for longer term rentals in the last 2 years.

    I assume that all the evidentiary documents submitted to the ZBA will be placed online.
    All bodies vested with governmental power need to be transparent and held accountable for their actions. In that regard, even if the seeming never ending covid crisis does finally abate, all government meeting should still be on zoom even if the meetings are "live" rather than "virtual," and appearances should be able to be made on zoom rather than live as well. That more than anything else will assist in fostering both accountability and transparency.

    As a matter of full disclosure and transparency myself, I served a term on the ZBA, but the Mayor chose, as is his right, not to reappoint me, so I no longer serve.

  6. Hi John Kane
    I am that investor with the 5 properties that you referred to so let me set the record straight. I've been a part time resident of Hudson for 8 years and for last two I've been am a full time resident of Hudson so get your facts straight and stop spreading lies to make your point.

    I can only conclude that your statements about other hosts is equally untrue or uninformed.

    You are welcome to take whatever position you like but you don't need to resort to lying.

    I purchased the properties from slumlords like Gelman, some of the houses were barely livable. Had horror stories of previous squatters that occupied the properties. I would clean up needles and other drug paraphernalia, floors collapsing etc. This is the house that I purchased and renovated inside and out. I as many others spent 100s of thousand so dollars to completely renovate them inside and outside.

    Not sure if you were living in Brookly when we had revolving door shooting galleries and literal shootings on a weekly basis but these are the properties that some hosts are picking up and transforming, not only the properties but neighberhoods as well.

    AGAIN I DONT" CARE ABOUT YOUR VIEWS but don't spread lies to make your case

    You may feel that this is taking away something from the city but these were unlivable conditions and I did purchase them with intention of getting return on my investment under the rules in place. Having a rule come in and wipe out any ability to recover the investment after the fact most people would find highly unfair.

    So no 150K broken pipes here. I've submitted over 250 pages of documentation that went through COE and TWO ZBA meetings. Your point about merit is equally uninformed as the rest of what your wrote.

    Get your facts straight before preaching John