THE BLOG
10/14/2014 01:34 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

A New Beginning in the Catskills: No More Bungalows

The Town of Fallsburg in Sullivan County recently put forth a number of changes to its zoning laws that would essentially limit the building of new bungalows.

The purpose of the new changes is simple.

"It is the intent of the Town of Fallsburg to not promote the expansion of bungalow colonies."

The idea behind the changes is to make new residential construction more permanent in nature, safer and more aesthetically pleasant.

The true reality is that if the changes are implemented, say goodbye to bungalows as a cheap housing alternative for summer residents and say hello to the end of questionable density seasonal housing both in Fallsburg and Sullivan County as a whole.

And that's a very good start in rebuilding the economy of Sullivan County and the Catskills by enhancing the housing stock in the area and improving the real estate values too.

The eastern half of Sullivan County comprised of the major towns should start placing more emphasis not only on building single family homes on adequately sized lots, but to begin to repair the crumbling, overtaxed full year-round housing stock in our villages and towns that already exists.

The concept of bungalow living in the Catskills has its genesis in the seasonal tourist mentality that dominated a recreational 20th century economy. They were built solely around servicing the masses escaping the heat of NYC during the summer season.

Bungalow living was one step more than camping out, allowing families to live in crowded colonies in structures that provided basic protection against the summer elements, period. Densely built, these colonies allowed the maximum amount of people to enjoy the Catskill summers, crowding our roads and supporting our main streets.

Now 70-100 years later, that model does not work anymore. Drive down the hamlet of Woodbourne's main street to view the stark 21st century reality of that seasonal bungalow mentality: A decrepit looking business district that once serviced local residents and tourists alike remains empty of year round stores, a basic ghost town 10 months a year.

Sullivan County should instead capture a new exodus from the NYC metropolitan area not driven by hot weather, but by exorbitant rents in places like Williamsburg and Crown Heights, to attract new middle class families with good, affordable year round housing to move here year round to live, to open stores, and to commute to NYC instead of just visiting for the summer.

Second homes should be year-round, where the owners can come up for the weekend not only in July, but in January. That model is building in hamlets like Narrowsburg and Roscoe. It needs to be jumpstarted in Woodridge and Swan Lake too.

At a recent hearing over this new Fallsburg law, a number of local contractors and Orthodox real estate developers with projects in Fallsburg argued that if the new law is implemented, they will be put out of business. They argued that stricter density laws would forbid them from continuing to build new summer residences that would continue this way of life for another 100 years.

In terms of safety, the subsequent "massive" fire in a Sackett Lake Bungalow colony that quickly incinerated numerous bungalows was a wake up call to why this law is a very good idea, solely from a safety point of view.

When it comes to rebuilding Sullivan County, with or without casinos, the vocal opposition to this new law that was reported in area news publication is cynical and misstated at best.

There are enough bungalows in the Catskills as it is. Enough is enough. New seasonal bungalows have no place in the future rebuilding of the Sullivan County economy.

Published in Writers Workshop of Sullivan County on October 14, 2014

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly's Kommentary (stevenkurlander.com) and writes for Context Florida and blogs on The Huffington Post and can be found on Twitter @Kurlykomments. He lives in Monticello, N.Y.