Chatham board to hear tennis camp hardship plea

CHATHAM–The Town Board decided this week to reject a plan to construct three new tennis courts at Crellin Park funded by Adam Slone, And at the same special meeting Monday, June 8 board members also decided to reopen the public hearing on Mr. Slone’s request for a hardship waiver of the town’s moratorium on building on dirt roads.

If granted, the waiver would allow Mr. Slone to move forward with his plans to build a tennis camp and add tennis courts to his property on Thomas Road. The public hearing will be held June 24 at 6 p.m. at the North Chatham Firehouse on County Route 32.

“We can’t have him using this as leverage,” said Town Board member Bob Balcom, referring to discussions about having Mr. Slone fund construction of tennis courts at the town park.

Board member Henry Swartz said he also didn’t want to accept the offer of the courts “if it looks like we are taking a bribe.” Mr. Swartz said the idea to put the courts at Crellin Park was part of discussions Mr. Balcom had with Mr. Slone. “We made that offer to him,” he said of moving the Mr. Slone’s camp program to Crellin.

Earlier this year Mr. Slone had an application as the Life Serve Youth Foundation before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to add create a tennis camp for underprivileged teenagers. His application included adding tennis courts to his property on Thomas Road. The campers would stay in his house for several weeks during the summer.

But the Town Board adopted a moratorium on new construction along town owned dirt roads after Mr. Slone’s application had been submitted. Mr. Slone withdrew his application to the ZBA before the moratorium took effect but then applied for a hardship waiver exemption from the moratorium.

A hearing on the hardship waiver originally scheduled for April before the Town Board was then postponed while a committee was formed to look into the possibility of adding courts to Crellin Park and holding tennis lessons for Mr. Slone’s campers there.

Mr. Balcom said the idea of having the tennis lessons at the town park came about in a conversation he had with Mr. Slone, but he stressed he was not representing the board when they discussed the idea. Mr. Balcom said that he and Mr. Slone discussed other options for the camp as well, and putting the courts at Crellin was the one concept that Mr. Slone decided to present to the board.

Board member Maria Lull said, “A lot of people have reached out with alternatives,” to having the camp on Thomas Road. Ms. Lull opposed having the hearing on June 24. She said she objected to the date based on her understanding that Karen Murphy, co-counsel for the Thomas Road Conservation Alliance, a group of neighbors opposed to Mr. Slone’s project, would be out of town until right before the hearing and would not have time to prepare an argument to present.

Ms. Lull and Ms. Murphy urged the board to hold hearing at the next Town Board meeting on July 9. “What’s another month?” Ms. Lull said.

Board member Jean Rohde , who favored having the hearing in June, said Mr. Slone “is still trying to accomplish what he’s trying to accomplish.” Mr. Swartz said that he wanted to move forward with deciding on the hardship. Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt, Ms. Rohde and Mr. Swartz voted in favor of moving forward with the June 24 hearing. Ms. Lull and Mr. Balcom voted against.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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