October 24, 2021

Project planning

Common council talks stimulus spending, rental laws

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cars drive on Homer Avenue in Cortland on Thursday. Fixing city sidewalks was one of the recommendations the Cortland Common Council discussed Tuesday for how to spend money the city is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Replacing sidewalks and refurbishing other parts of the city might be in Cortland’s future as Common Council members consider how to spend federal stimulus money.

Following the signing of the American Rescue Plan in March, the city was notified it would receive $2.05 million over two years, with about $1 million coming in 2021 and $1 million in 2022.

In the months following, council members have been discussing how they would like the money to be used. But there are so many options; the conversation continued Tuesday.

“I want to see some of this money for sidewalks,” Councilperson Bruce Tytler (D-3rd Ward) said, according to the meeting livestream, who said he had received a complaint from a person injured after tripping and falling on a deteriorating piece of sidewalk.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said William Carpenter (D-6th Ward).

Kathryn Silliman (D-2nd Ward) said she wanted funding to be used for people who assist others — like child care providers — or for renovations of public places such as the World War I memorial at Courthouse Park.

Kat McCarthy (D-1st Ward) agreed that beautification of parks or monuments could be a good way to spend the money.

Carpenter also suggested money be spent to renovate the tennis courts next to Randall Middle School, which had been discussed by the city in years prior.

Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) liked that idea. “Right now, it’s not really child-friendly,” he said.

No actions were taken.


Mayor Brian Tobin said he would have Zoning Officer Bob Rhea start drafting city legislation for short-term rental websites such as Airbnb and Vrbo.

Tobin said the city does not have any legislation for short-term rentals.

“The question for council is: What do we want to do?” Tobin said, and asked for support drafting legislation.

Michales said it would be helpful to know where the properties functioning as short term rentals are located, which Tobin said is difficult to tell.

Michales also suggested the city establish a complaint phone line for people who have problems while renting.

“Knowing Bob, I’m sure he’s doing his homework and probably looking into what other communities are doing,” Tytler said.

Carpenter also brought up the possibility of implementing an occupancy tax for short term rentals for the city to recoup some of the spending of renters.

“So at this point, we’re going to move forward and start to draft proposed legislation,” Tobin said. “We want to make sure we’re allowing opportunities but not at the expense of residents and the quality of life.”