Chatham postpones vote on longer moratorium

CHATHAM–­­The Town Board has left open its public hearing on a proposed 12-­month extension of a moratorium that effectively blocks new construction projects along unpaved town roads. The board opened the public hearing before the regular monthly meeting Thursday, February 18 and plans to close it at the March Town Board meeting, which would give the county Planning Board time to review the proposal.

Many people at the meeting spoke in favor of the extending the moratorium and one person sent an email opposing it. The board put the moratorium in place last year to give board members time to review changes to town zoning laws as suggested by the town’s Zoning Implementation Committee (ZIC). The committee just completed its review of the zoning laws and the changes it recommends are posted on the town’s website, http://chathamnewyork.us.

Last month, after several residents said the information on the changes was difficult to understand and review, the board hired planner Nan Stolzenburg to compile the ZIC’s work and present it to the residents. Councilman Bob Balcom said that Ms. Stolzenburg had just started reviewing the information and has said it would take her about 10 days to report back to the board.

The county Planning Board was supposed to have reviewed the moratorium plan at its meeting last month but did not have a quorum, according the Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea.

The county Planning Board will meet again March 15, the same week as the next Town Board meeting. Mr. Rappleyea said that if the town does not hear back from the county within 30 days of submitting the moratorium proposal, the town can act on the plan.

If the moratorium extension is adopted, it would continue the temporary prohibition on issuing special use permits and conducting site plan reviews for new construction projects on land along unpaved town roads.

The board also heard last week from representatives of Trout Unlimited and the state Department of Environmental Conservation Estuary Program about fixing culverts in Malden Bridge. Tracy Brown, the Northeastern Restoration Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, said that her organization had identified two culverts that need to be opened up for trout and other organisms to pass under a road. There is a third culvert on Route 13, but Ms. Brown said Trout Unlimited has not talked to the county yet about work on that.

She said that according to their engineers the two projects could cost about $450,000 and would open up 2.6 miles of habitat. She said she was there to talk to the board about “how we can work together as partners.”

Supervisor Maria Lull said that the issue with the culverts had been brought the attention of the state by landowners in the town. “This is significant infrastructure for the town,” she said.

Town highway Superintendent Joe Rickert was also at the meeting and supported fixing the culverts. He said his crews repaired the second culvert after tropical storm Irene, using funds from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency money. Fish are passing through, Mr. Rickert said, but he acknowledged that the first culvert remains a problem. “I’ve been out there many times with DEC,” he said.

The board plans to craft a resolution in support of the Trout Unlimited moving forward on the project and looking for grants. The DEC will do a survey of other culverts in the town to make sure there aren’t other issues with water rights-­of-­way.

Also at the meeting:

•The board plans to advertise for the position of recreation director in hopes of hiring someone in March. Councilman John Wapner said he and Councilwoman Landra Haber met with the Morris Memorial Board and the Morris board is not interested in taking over the town’s summer recreation program. He also said that former Recreation Director Shari Franks helped in crafting the job description for the new director. “We thank Sheri for her cooperation,” said Ms. Lull.

•The board tabled the appointment of a new Planning Board member until they re-­interview candidates interviewed before the Town Board meeting. Councilman Henry Swartz asked why the three board members and Ms. Lull voted to table the nomination he made to appoint Michael Hart
to the seven-­year term and interview candidates again. “Why are we dragging this out when we have a perfect candidate in front of us?” he said.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, March 17 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall on Route 295.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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