I hope you had a wonderful (although hot) summer and you had some down time from the hectic pace of everyday life. The summer of 2010 was certainly a busy one for your Village Board. Following is an update of some of the issues that kept the Village Board active and engaged this summer:
1. Hotel Tax. On August 14th Governor Paterson signed into law legislation that permits Rye Brook to levy an occupancy tax of up to 3% on hotel rooms within the Village. Although Rye Brook is a small village with approximately 10,000 residents, there are over 800 hotel rooms. This legislation is precedent setting since Rye Brook is the first village in New York State to be given the authority to levy such a tax, which previously had been extended to only certain cities and towns. Rye Brook’s elected officials have always looked at ways to generate alternative sources of revenue in an effort to reduce the reliance on the property tax.
For the past five years the Village has been working closely with our state legislators, Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and Assemblyman George Latimer, to have a law enacted that would permit Rye Brook to have a hotel occupancy tax. On two prior occasions our representatives introduced the legislation but without success. I guess the expression three times a charm was applicable in this case! I applaud the efforts of Senator Oppenheimer and Assemblyman Latimer for their perseverance in advocating for passage of this legislation and for assuring that it would be signed into law by the Governor. They certainly recognized the need of municipalities such as Rye Brook to have alternate sources of non-property revenue to maintain essential services and programs, as well as necessary capital projects.
A local law to impose a 3% occupancy tax on hotel rooms was introduced at the September 14th meeting of the Rye Brook Board of Trustees and a public hearing on the proposed law will be held on September 28th. If the hotel occupancy tax is enacted into law, it is anticipated that it will result in a minimum of $400,000 of additional annual revenue to the Village.
2. Coyote Sightings. If there was one issue that predominated this summer, it was the focus on coyotes in Rye Brook and neighboring municipalities. As many of you know by now, on the evening of September 5th there were two incidents in Rye Brook where an aggressive coyote lunged at a 14 year old and a two year old and her father. Fortunately all of the individuals involved were not seriously injured although each of them is undergoing a series of rabies shots. The next morning a coyote lunged at the trapper hired by the Village and one of our police officers. Given this aggressive behavior, it was necessary for the police officer to shoot the coyote. The health department examined the coyote and determined that it had rabies. This may explain the coyote’s aggressive behavior. Although we cannot say with certainty that the felled coyote was the one that was involved in the September 5th attacks, it appears to be so.
This summer we have monitored the sightings of coyotes throughout the village and have encouraged our residents to call the police when they have seen a coyote. Village staff has been in contact with officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) and the federal Department of Agriculture to better understand the behavior of coyotes and what actions can be taken by our residents. In late July the Village obtained a trapping license from the DEC. Commencing August 6th the Village has undertaken a temporary trapping program on certain municipal properties which was set to expire on September 10th. Given last week’s coyote incidents the trapping will continue.
Rye Brook has much information on its website at www.ryebrook.org relating to the coyote hazing program that the Village has implemented and which encourages our residents to be aggressive upon seeing coyote and make loud sounds. I urge all residents to continue to call our police upon seeing a coyote and to go to the website for more up to date information.
3. United Water. Both Rye Brook and the City of Rye jointly hired special counsel on water utility matters to jointly represent the two municipalities on United Water’s rate increase request to the New York Public Service Commission. United Water was seeking a 15% annual rate increase. This was the first request since United Water purchased the company from Aquarion Water in November 2007. The negotiations took place over many months and a very complicated settlement agreement was entered into and a public hearing before the PSC has taken place. The news is not good although it is certainly better than what we believe would have been the case if Rye Brook and the City of Rye had not intervened. If ultimately approved by the PSC, United Water would not come back to the PSC for four years. The homeowner will see an increase in their water bill of approximately 6% the first year and over 5% for the three years thereafter.
4. Fire Contract. This summer we approved a new three year fire contract with Port Chester that will assure Rye Brook of the continuation of fire protection services. In these difficult times sharing of services with other municipalities is a responsible way to maintain quality services at a reasonable price.
5. Amnesty Program. At the suggestion of the Arbors Homeowner’s Association, the amnesty program that was to expire on November 15, 2010 will be extended until May 31, 2011. This program waives the administrative fee for all work that was completed without a building permit, and in many cases obviates the need to go before the Architectural Review Board. The fee that is being waived is 12% of the cost of construction with a minimum fee of $500.00 and a maximum of $3,500.00. The Board of Trustees believes that by offering this amnesty residents will be incentivized to legalize work that was done without the necessary permits or without obtaining the required certificate of occupancy. This will ensure the safety of our residents through inspections, and will also eliminate any issues that may arise when residents are refinancing their mortgages or selling their homes and do not have the proper certificates of occupancy for work completed.
Please know that I am always available to discuss any issue with you. You can either leave a message for me at Village Hall or call me at my home.
Joan L. Feinstein