Gov. George Pataki and his wife, Libby, apply to Adirondack Park Agency to expand short-term rental business on farm in Essex
By Gwendolyn Craig
Visitors to the Lake Champlain Valley could stay at former Gov. George Pataki’s farm for the summer months, according to an application filed with the Adirondack Park Agency.
The 53rd governor of New York has a second home with his wife, Elizabeth (Libby), in Essex. They moved there shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and used the multiple-residence compound as a refuge during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Explorer found two cottages, which were part of the Patakis’ APA application for a new or expanded commercial use on resource management lands, posted to the short-term rental site Airbnb. They are listed under “Libby,” ranging between $300-$400 a night. Reviews for stays date back to July.
The APA is charged with overseeing public and private development in the park. The agency is reviewing the Patakis’ proposal to convert farm worker housing into tourist accommodations, said spokesman Keith McKeever in an email on Wednesday after the story was posted online. The two cottages already advertised online appeared to be under the APA’s jurisdiction, according to an inquiry form the Explorer obtained.
It is unclear whether renting the cottages needed prior APA approval, but McKeever said APA “has no information to indicate any violations occurred.”
McKeever said the agency reviews multiple factors when determining its jurisdiction, and it “recommends that prior to undertaking projects that land owners submit jurisdictional inquiries to obtain a legally binding determination from the agency.” The Patakis submitted a jurisdictional inquiry form in January, records show, where the APA determined a permit was required for three short-term rentals.
In a May 2020 interview with the Explorer, Gov. Pataki called the valley and his farm overlooking Lake Champlain “one of the most beautiful places on the planet” and “one of the most undiscovered parts of the whole Northeast.” The Republican was known for his love of the Adirondack Park. He was partially responsible for conserving more than 1 million acres, closing all landfills in the park and for championing the last environmental bond act voters passed in 1996.
Pataki told the Explorer on Tuesday that the farm was “still going strong” with its beef cows, chickens, horses and bales of hay. The family spends time there, and the Patakis have hosted people in other houses on the property before.
“This doesn’t represent any significant change,” George Pataki said. “It’s not our main house at all. It’s just places we’ve had people in for some time, and we just want to make sure we’re in compliance with any regulations.”
Three of the cottages on the 300-acre farm at 44 Farm Way—Pine Cottage, ADK House and Blue Bliss Cottage—would be short-term rentals.
The APA is currently seeking public comments on the application.
The houses would be available June, July and August, according to the application, with an estimated 60 visitors in a season. Though the property abuts Lake Champlain, guests will not have lake access and will instead be directed to Noblewood Park. The park is owned by the town of Willsboro and conserved by the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
The Patakis’ Adirondacks property has received attention in the past. During his tenure as governor in 2004, Pataki used state Office of General Service employees to build a new work space for state police troopers in a two-car garage behind his main home, according to a report from the Times Union newspaper. Responding to a complaint, the state inspector general looked into whether there had been improper use of state employees and public funds, but the allegation was determined unfounded. The state troopers assigned there were part of the governor’s protective detail.
Essex Town Supervisor Ken Hughes said he could not comment on any individual applications before the APA. Hughes, however, is concerned about the growing number of short-term rentals in the region. Hughes said they do help bolster the area’s tourism. The Essex Inn and The Cupola House are the two most prominent rentals in town. Short-term rentals can provide more options.
“I think there is a place for it,” Hughes said. “The major concern that I have from my office—how many short-term-rentals does it take to degrade the fabric of a community, and how detrimental are short-term-rentals to middle- or low-income families” who may wish to buy a home?
The town received $67,500 from the state Department of State to update its comprehensive plan, but has not yet solicited bids from consultants to do the plan. Residents will be invited to comment on projects they’d like to see in the town, including housing.
Once the town’s plan is finalized, Hughes hopes to tackle new zoning laws that would better regulate short-term rentals. The town’s zoning laws haven’t been updated in about a decade, he said.
Adirondack policy, in plain speak.
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