Town meets resistance on next step for plan

CHATHAM–A town committee that has yet to meet drew criticism from community members during the public comment section of the Town Board meeting last week, with residents questioning the board about the creation of a group that will recommend steps to implement the town’s comprehensive plan.

The new implementation committee will review the recommendations in the comprehensive plan to ensure that the town’s laws are in line with the plan. The comprehensive plan, a document that provides guidance about future land use and growth patterns in the town, was adopted last year after years of discussion and with hundreds of volunteers providing their input and support.

Nearly every seat in the meeting room was taken and people some stood in the lobby of the town Hall last Thursday, June 17, as speakers listed different concerns regarding the newly formed body.

Former town board member Bob Balcom commented that the he had never heard the board speak about forming an implementation committee before.

“It gives the impression that this was done in the dead of night in a brown paper bag,” said resident Deirdre Henderson.

Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said that Councilwoman Jeane Rohde and Councilman Henry Swartz were in charge of forming the implementation committee. And Ms. Rohde said that some of the committee members approached the town about getting involved.

That drew a sharp response from the back of the room: “How were we supposed to know to approach you?” asked one observer.

One community member raised a concern that the committee lacked people who would know the intentions of those who had drafted the comprehensive plan.

Mr. DeGroodt responded by suggesting that the purpose of the plan was so that anyone should be able to understand it.

Councilwoman Rhode said that six out of eight committee members were involved at some point with the comprehensive plan. And Councilman Swartz defended the makeup of the committee, telling the audience at the meeting, “We were looking for fresh people.”

Ms. Rohde and Mr. Swartz agreed to meet in the future to discuss comments made about the implementation committee. But when asked by a community member whether they would reconsider their selections, Ms. Rohde said, “Well, we haven’t met yet to discuss it yet.”

James Temple a long-time resident of the town and one of the members of the implementation committee said after the meeting that he was asked to serve on the committee and gave the idea considerable thought before joining. “I had made it known a long time ago that I was interested in this,” Mr. Temple said.

The implementation committee members are Planning Board chairwoman Marilyn Cohen, Planning Board Deputy Chair Donna Staron, Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Dave Everett, ZBA Deputy Chair Mitchell Khorosva, Ms. Rohde, Mr. Swartz, Bob Linville, Don Hegeman and James Temple.

In other business, the board approved the commission of a study on the Mirror Pond dam in Old Chatham. Mr. DeGroodt said the study would address what has been an ongoing problem for the hamlet: “How can we solve this flooding problem… and how we can in the future bring this pond back.” The approval came even though the board acknowledged Superintendent of Highways Joe Rickert planned to destroy the damn the following week.

Mr. DeGroodt told community members that he hoped a meeting with Rickert the following morning would change the Superintendents mind. The day after the meeting, Mr. DeGroodt told The Columbia Paper that that Mr. Rickert “agreed to not remove the damn for a period of two months till we bring it back at the August 19 Town Board Meeting.” 

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