CHATHAM–A full house of town residents listened as consultant Nan Stolzenberg reported last week on proposed changes to the town zoning law recommended by the Zoning Implementation Committee (ZIC) and how well those changes reflect the town’s seven-year-old Comprehensive Plan.
Several residents who spoke before, during and after Ms. Stolzenberg’s presentation at the April 7 special Town Board meeting criticized the ZIC proposals for not addressing certain issues like development on dirt roads and agricultural districts, and also for the time it has taken to taken to get these changes to the review stage.
Deirdre Henderson, the town’s representative on the county Environmental Management Council, said that though the Comprehensive Plan Committee, which worked with Ms. Stolzenberg, presented the Town Board with the overall land use plan seven years ago and board adopted it at that time, the town zoning law still has not been amended to conform to the goals stated in the Comprehensive Plan.
“The ZIC had no professional help,” she said of the committee that has worked for years to revise zoning laws and propose changes.
She also pointed out that no one who was a member of the Comprehensive Plan Committee served on the ZIC. “It was the blind leading the blind for years,” she said.
Melissa Pollack, who sent a letter the Town Board about the review, called the ZIC’s suggestions “toothless” and pointed out that the town is overdue for the five-year review of the Comprehensive Plan.
The Town Board hired Ms. Stolzenberg after the ZIC handed over its conclusions for the Town Board to review. The board posted the findings on the town’s website and several residents came out to say that report is hard to understand.
Ms. Stolzenberg stressed in her report that though she worked with the town on the Comprehensive Plan she had had nothing to do with the ZIC and its report.
She said that one major issue she sees in the ZIC report is that the there is a philosophical difference between what the ZIC did and what the plan called for. The Comprehensive Plan, she said, “set you on a more detailed direction.”
She also said that the ZIC document needs editing and that it should have more definitions for the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals to follow. “It was very hard to read,” she said of the document.
“Everything you allow for a special use needs a definition,” she said, referring to requirements for special use permits.
She went on to say, “Your roles for the Planning Board and ZBA are very complex,” and talked about using state law as a guide for the boards.
Ms. Stolzenberg pointed out that clearly worded and detailed zoning laws lead to less confusion for board members and applicants.
She also talked about updating the Comprehensive Plan and the Town Board debated the best way to do this. Town Supervisor Maria Lull appointed Councilman Bob Balcom to head a review committee.
Updating the plan would be the first step in finalizing the review of the zoning laws, which will continue to be reviewed.
The ZIC report and Mr. Stolzenberg’s report are online at the town’s website at http://chathamnewyork.us/.
The next regular meeting of the town board is Thursday, April 21 at 7 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email