Chatham eyes net gain from camp offer

CHATHAM – Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt announced at last week’s Town Board meeting that he has disbanded the committee convened to review an offer from Adam Slone to build new tennis courts at the town’s Crellin Park. Mr. DeGroodt said he has now formed a new committee to look at the feasibility of constructing five new tennis courts at the park paid for by Mr. Slone.

The new committee will include representatives from the Chatham Central School District and the town’s engineering firm.

Mr. Slone, through a nonprofit called Life Serve Tennis Camp, had an application brought before the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals seeking a variance for a camp on his Thomas Road property. He planned to have campers stay at his house and wanted to build three tennis courts on his property. But he withdrew his application just as the Town Board adopted a moratorium earlier this spring blocking construction along dirt roads.

Then, in March, Mr. Slone applied to the town for a waiver that would exempt his tennis camp project from the moratorium. In documents he said the moratorium would cause him a hardship. The moratorium allows the Town Board to grant hardship waivers to the moratorium.

In April Mr. Slone offered to build the tennis courts at the town park. The board has not yet considered Mr. Slone’s waiver request.

Mr. DeGroodt insisted at the Thursday, May 21 Town Board meeting that the discussions with Mr. Slone about the courts at Crellin Park were totally separate from the issue of a hardship waiver hearing.

But residents of Thomas Road who oppose the tennis camp plan asked when the board would hold the hardship waiver hearing and address the proposal for a camp on narrow dirt road.

“What the Life Serve and Adam Slone do is up to them,” Mr. DeGroodt said. He stressed that the new committee is just looking at the tennis courts at Crellin Park. “We can’t force him back to the table,” the supervisor said.

Mr. Slone’s original proposal called for rooms at his Thomas Road property for tennis camp participants. Heather Uhler, a neighbor of Mr. Slone’s, asked the board, “What reason would he have to give us the courts if he doesn’t have dormitories?”

“I think there is a real problem of an appearance of impropriety,” said town resident Deirdre Henderson of the issue.

“We haven’t guaranteed him anything,” said Mr. DeGroodt. “And he hasn’t guaranteed us five new courts.”

Thomas Road residents also brought safety concerns related to the dirt road. The group referred to a letter written to the town Planning Board last October while Mr. Slone’s application was being reviewed. The letter came from a Tri-Village Fire Company official, who wrote that emergency vehicles could get up the Thomas Road hill in an emergency.

Members of the Thomas Road Conservation Alliance (TRCA) allege that same official is living on Mr. Slone’s property in a house provided by Mr. Slone. Neither Mr. Slone nor representatives from the Tri-Village Fire Company were at the meeting and there was no independent verification available to support the statement.

Town Board Member Henry Swartz said that the Tri-Village Fire Company stands by the letter. “There is no problem getting equipment up there,” he said.

Thomas Road resident Linda Ziskind said that without the hardship waiver hearing or a public hearing on the project, the TRCA had not been able to present its safety findings or discuss other issues the group has with the project.

Also at last week’s Town Board meeting:

  • Members of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby asked the board to pass a resolution that “urges the County of Columbia, the State of New York, and the Congress and President of the United States of America to take prompt and effective measures to rapidly address climate change.” The board will review the resolution and plans to put it on the agenda for next month
  • Representatives from the town to the county’s Office for the Aging committee asked about any issues the board wanted them to bring to the attention of the office. Councilmember Swartz said that he was in talks with the village about creating a senior center. They also talked the Meals-on-Wheels program expanding to Malden Bridge.

The next for meeting will be June 18 at 7 p.m. in the town hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

 

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