Is there a hidden agenda in occupancy tax?

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

To the Editor:

Recently the dramatization of David McCullogh’s biography of our second President, John Adams, was on television.  Watching the story of our democracy unfold, I was reminded of one of  the principal tenets for our breaking away from England.  It was of course, “No taxation without representation.”

My husband and I live in CT but eight years ago we bought a cottage on Keuka Lake.  It had been built in 1898 and needed some renovation.  We replaced old plumbing fixtures, sanded floors, installed new windows and rebuilt  a rotting porch. 

We tore out a collapsing shed, put a new roof on the garage and part of the house, replaced the kitchen floor, built a new dock, bought new appliances and planted new trees.  For each of these improvements we used local craftsmen.  We bought  toilets, sinks, shower installations and  hardware locally.  We bought furniture and new appliances  from local merchants and hired local people to maintain the grounds in our absence.

Since I teach in our local CT school system, we use the house in summers and on long weekends.  In the past we have rented our cottage out a few weeks in summer to assist with the taxes. We were shocked and dismayed to read that a new tax had been levied on these rentals. There had been no prior discussion of it, just a notice of its appearance.

Each summer we frequent local restaurants, shop at the local farmers market on Main Street, and patronize local merchants.  The money we spend in restaurants, on groceries and in local stores is not negligable. Our friends and family come to visit, accompany us to restaurants, shops and wineries, buying gifts for their friends, generating more income.

We do not use the school system, but we pay school taxes. We only use the water in summer but we pay water taxes year round.

We purchased our cottage in order to have a place to share with family and friends.  Having grown up in the Rochester area and attended schools in Rochester, I have many friends who live in striking distance of Penn Yan. Some of my family still live in Rochester and  they are as attracted to Penn Yan, as we are, because of its unique charm. We love the small town character of the place and its strong sense of history, as well as the absence of big box stores,. 

Penn Yan has the distinction of having a bank whose workers  know patrons’  names and who answer the phones personally.  The Post Office workers are helpful and friendly.  Local merchants have the time to talk and to know their customers.  The librarians’ hospitable attitude makes us feel welcome.

So, the sudden and unannounced levy of a tax, seemed out of character with a town which seems so friendly.  We have tried to be good citizens of Penn Yan.  We donate to local causes, we have patronized the Art Gallery and the concerts.

Did we miss something?  Is there resentment against  “summer people”?

Because we vote in CT we cannot vote in Penn Yan, but had we been given some notice of this tax we would have argued that renting out our cottage does not make us money; we have a constant cash drain in keeping our cottage.

It is not only the tax but the idea of a tax applied by fiat which makes us wonder about hidden agenda in a town which levies taxes arbitrarily and surreptitiously.  It appears  that the legislators who enacted this tax operate with a contempt for part-time residents.  What other reason could they have for enacting a tax without prior warning and without discussion among those who are taxed?

Janet Bronson MacKenzie                                                                                                              and                                                                                                                                                                                 Donald R. MacKenzie