Chatham prepares to bring boards back to full strength

CHATHAM–The Town Board held its organizational meeting this week and appointed new chairs for both the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. The board also set the salaries for town employees and appointed committees for 2017.

The first meeting of the new year started with the board accepting the resignations of three Planning Board members and five members of the ZBA. Town Councilman Henry Swartz was the only board member who voted against accepting the resignations, saying that he wished the Town Board had tried to keep these people in their positions. He said the board made no attempt to “save some of the experience that we lost” with the resignation of the Planning and Zoning board members.

Mr. Swartz also voted nay on the appointment of Gabriella Sperry to chair the Planning Board and Kandace Eaton to chair the ZBA. Both are currently members of their respective boards. The board expects to appoint four new members to the seven-member Planning Board and three new members to the five-member ZBA.

On the ZBA, all the newly appointed members will fill out unfinished terms of the members who have resigned.

At the Planning Board, three new members will fill out unexpired terms left vacant by the resignations. The fourth vacancy was created by a member whose term had expired and did not seek reappointment. For that seat the Town Board will appoint a person for a full seven-year term. The Town Board did not discuss the names of the candidates for the Planning and Zoning board seats.

Town Supervisor Maria Lull said that the candidates for the Planning Board and ZBA can attend trainings and that many of the applicants the Town Board is looking at to fill the seats have some Planning Board experience. She also said they will get some help from attorney John Lyons, named by the Town Board to advise the town on land use and planning issues.

“We’re moving on in 2017,” she told the board of the appointments.

Mr. Swartz also voted against the appointments of Mr. Lyons and Town Attorney Salvatore Ferlazzo, saying that the board was paying more now in attorneys’ fees. “We had a good attorney before,” he said, referring of the previous town attorney, who was replaced by the board last year.

Mr. Lyons charges $150 an hour for all litigation and similar work and Mr. Ferlazzo, who attends Town Board meetings, is paid an hourly rate of $175.

The board also decided to change the time of the monthly meetings, which are held on the third Thursday of the month, to 6 p.m. Workshop meetings, which are held the first Thursday of the month as needed, will also be at 6 p.m.

One new member to the Citizen’s Finance and Planning Committee, Michael Blasl, will join that group, which helps create the proposed town budget.

Councilman Bob Balcom was appointed deputy supervisor and Councilwoman Landra Haber was appointed 2nd deputy supervisor.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Swartz brought up issues with the town’s Facebook page and how it should be used. Ms. Lull said the Communications Committee, made up of Ms. Haber, Budget Officer Tammy Shaw, Town Clerk Beth Anne Rippel and resident Linda Ziskind, is coming up with a policy on how the Facebook page should be used.

“I have a huge problem with trying to answer people back,” Mr. Swartz said of the comments posted on the Facebook page. He said he felt people needed to come to meetings and address the whole board if they want an answer to policy questions or concerns.

Ms. Haber and other board members agreed that the page should be used for informing the public about events in the town. “There are all kinds of cans of worms that get opened,” she said if the board plans to use Facebook in other ways.

Another resolution adopted at the meeting had to do with conduct at the meetings and public hearings. The page-long resolution that starts by citing town law “that the Town Board may determine the rules of its procedure.” Among the rules in Chatham is a section that states, “no member of the public shall engage in any demonstration, booing, hand clapping or otherwise disrupt the formality of the town board meeting.”

Also at the meeting, Councilman John Wapner was officially sworn in. He was appointed to the board last year and then won a one-year term on the board for 2017 in last November’s election.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, January 19 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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