December 17, 2008


Rental permit proposal nears vote

City, County planning boards will review proposal at Jan. meetings; vote may come in Feb.

Staff reporter

After almost a year of discussion, the city Common Council could schedule a vote on a proposed rental permit program as soon as February.
Larry Knickerbocker, the city’s attorney, advised the council to make any major alterations, so a final version of the document can be reviewed at the January meetings of the city Planning Commission and county Planning Board.
After receiving the commissions’ input, the council can review the proposal again and schedule a public hearing in February, Knickerbocker said.
The proposed rental permit program aims to monitor the conditions and occupancy of the city’s rental housing. Landlords would be required to pay a $100 fee every three years and have properties inspected once every three years for overoccupancy and code violations.
The council approved amending the document to remove clauses limiting occupancy to no more than three unrelated people to reside in rental units in R-1 and R-2 zoning districts and no more than four unrelated people in other zoning districts.
Alderman Susan Feiszli (D-6th Ward) said she proposed removing the clauses to allow the council to alter certain densities after collecting information on the location of rental properties.
The rental permit program calls for landlords to register properties with the city’s Code Enforcement Office before August 2009, which will produce data for the city on the location and density of rental housing units.
After the council approved Feiszil’s amendment, Knickerbocker said he would revise the proposed permit to reflect the city’s zoning code, which states no more than three unrelated people can reside in a rental unit in any zoning district.
During the public comments, several residents spoke in favor of the proposed rental permit program.
Chad Cotterill, who lives on Warren Street, said there are now five rental properties on his street, and there were none when he moved in.
“I’m concerned when I look out the door,” said Cotterill, who is on the ad-hoc housing committee. “My property tax assessment went up this year, and I doubt the assessments in my neighborhood are really going up.”
Abigail Cleary, who lives on Stevenson Street, pointed out homeowners invest money while maintaining homes and living in Cortland, and the council should attempt to keep more homeowners in the city.
“Imagine what Cortland would be like if we all left,” she added.
Several aldermen said they received e-mails from landlords opposing the permit program.
Don Cheney, of Cheney & Blair, pointed out the proposed law includes a clause saying a landlord can apply for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals if they face a “unique hardship” as a result of the law.
“(The proposed permit) might not be popular, but it’s legal,” added Cheney, who is advising the city on the proposed permit.


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