Village weighs building ban hardship plea

CHATHAM–The Village Board held a public hearing last week to look over two separate projects whose backers are asking for permission to move forward despite the moratorium the village has imposed on commercial construction.

The first project for which a waiver of the moratorium is requested involves Ed Herrington, Inc., which owns the Herrington’s building supply store on Depot Square. The company wants to construct several new outbuildings to house lumber and other materials in the yard behind and adjacent to the store. Andrew Howard, the lawyer representing Herrington’s, said at the Thursday, May 28 meeting that his client wants to protect the products from the weather and also make the yard look more “orderly.”

The board is currently in the process of reviewing and making changes to the village Comprehensive Plan. Once the revised plan is approved, possibly sometime this summer, a committee will then review the village zoning laws to make sure their requirements adhere to the principles expressed in the plan. The Village Board adopted the moratorium to restrict commercial development while the Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws are being revised.

Mr. Howard said he had reviewed the six-month moratorium and could understand why the board decided to put it place. But he said of his clients, “For them to be swept up in the moratorium would be unjust.”

Mr. Howard also told the board at the public hearing that he has looked at the proposed Comprehensive Plan and that the Herrington’s site is specifically mentioned in new plan. The proposed Comprehensive Plan states that “the largest parcels classified as Commercial within Downtown Chatham include the former Blue Seal facility at 6.5 acres, along with a 7 acre parcel occupied by Herrington’s Lumber.” It goes on to say, “due to the combined size of the properties and their development potential, the Village may want to consider evaluating opportunities for future compatible growth in partnership with the owners.”

Mr. Howard said another part of the plan talks about the need for more parking in that area, which would be helped by having the site cleaned up and the supplies that are outside put in new buildings.

He also pointed out that not having the outbuildings is a hardship on his clients financially because the materials could be damaged from exposure to the elements.

He said that if the Village Board grants the waiver, Herrington’s would then have to seek approval of its site plan from the Village Planning Board before the company could move forward with any construction.

“Grant us a waiver so we can just start the process with the Planning Board,” Mr. Howard said.

Mayor Tom Curran said that the board would discuss the waiver with the village attorney and make a decision at the next board meeting June 11.

The other project asking for waiver is a small addition to another building on Depot Square next door to Herrington’s. Contractor Aaron Gaylord was at the meeting to present the plans. The building is owned by Jack Shear.

Mr. Gaylord showed the board the plans for a 21’ by 18’ addition. When asked by board member Jay Rippel whether there would be any financial hardship for Mr. Shear if the addition is not built before the moratorium expires in October, Mr. Gaylord said no.

Lael Locke, a former village trustee and a key member of the committee reviewing Comprehensive Plan Committee, said during the public hearing that she appreciated the board reviewing waiver requests before considering whether to grant them. But she said she worried that if the board granted a waiver then others would also ask for waivers before the zoning laws could be reviewed.

“I don’t want the moratorium to be eroded by a thousand little nibbles,” she said. She said she thought people could wait six months for the moratorium to expire. “I hope the board will hold firm to the moratorium,” she said.

Ms. Locke also said she didn’t think reviewing the zoning laws would take that long. “I hope less than a year,” she said.

The board will meet again on Thursday, June 11 for the regular meeting at 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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