CHATHAM–The village won’t see any commercial expansion in the next year, following a June 13 decision by the board of trustees to place a moratorium on such activity while a zoning review committee updates the village comprehensive plan.
The moratorium is effective immediately.
Committee Chairwoman and former village Trustee Lael Locke said the board is hoping to hold off on development near the current Price Chopper building, an area that has some space that could be commercially developed but is at risk of flooding.
Though the moratorium will last for a year, there is an appeals process written into the law, and residential development will not be impeded. If a tenant were to move into a vacant commercial building–like the empty space on Hudson Avenue previously occupied by Blue Seal Feeds–that use would not be subject to the moratorium.
“If we’d had this done years ago, we wouldn’t have all this discussion and problem in legal fees with the Price Chopper,” Mayor Tom Curran said. He was referring to an unsuccessful effort by village officials to prevent the supermarket from pursuing its plan to construct a new, larger store in an adjacent lot, most of which is in the Town of Ghent.
Trustee Jay Rippel voiced concerns that the moratorium would not be conducive to business in Chatham and to job creation. “We could always use more jobs in the village,” Mr. Rippel said. He added that “people may perceive that we’re slamming the door on it and not realize that we have an appeals process.”
In an email following the meeting, Mayor Curran included the language affecting appeals possible during the moratorium. The measure allows a developer to petition against the terms of the moratorium and appear at a public hearing before the Village Board, with the trustees deciding whether to grant the requested variance.
To appeal successfully, the law states, the developer must demonstrate “unjust result and financial hardship will occur to the petitioners(s) if such relief is not granted, and such showing must demonstrate that the proposed activity for which relief is sought shall be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the reasonable orderly development of the Village.”
During the moratorium the Zoning Review Committee will pore over maps of the entire village in an effort to come up with recommendations for adjustments to the zoning law that reflect the comprehensive plan.
Mr. Rippel floated the idea that to mitigate the effect of the moratorium, the board could reduce its length to six months to “put some pressure” on the committee’s review process and speed its conclusion.
“Honestly there’s no way that everything could be done,” Ms. Locke responded. “We meet twice a month.”
Trustee Rippel also proposed waiting another six months to enact the moratorium, but the rest of the board members agreed that move would “invite” a rush of commercial development.
There are no outstanding commercial projects currently awaiting approval by the village, and Mayor Curran said this is a “quiet time” for development.
“Once we’ve got the recommendations then we will go piece-by-piece with the attorney and get our zoning [law] updated,” the mayor said.