Chatham re-staffs town planning, zoning boards

CHATHAM – The Town Board passed a local law last week, reducing the number of members on the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) from seven to five. The Town Board had planned to reduce the number of ZBA members over two years–six members are in the 2017 budget. But after several resignations, the five-member board will begin work this year following the appointment by the Town Board of three new members to fill the vacant seats.

At the January 19 meeting the board also appointed two new Planning Board members and a volunteer town historian. Before the regular meeting, there was a public hearing on the proposed law to change the number of ZBA members. There were no comments from the public.

The Planning Board appointees are: Frank Haimbach to a term expiring 2023; Angus Eaton to a term expiring 2019; Robert Walker to a term expiring 2018; and Jonathan Catlett to a one-year term.

The appointees to the ZBA are: Daniel Persing to a term expiring in 2020; Stephen Day to a term expiring in 2019; and Michael Richardson to a term expiring in 2018.

The Planning Board and ZBA appointments were based on finishing the terms of board members who resigned in December. Five members of the ZBA and three members of the Planning Board resigned.

No business will come before the boards until March so that new members can be trained in January and February. Town Supervisor Maria Lull said the town’s attorney for land use issues, John Lyons, and planning consultant Nan Stolzenburg would work with the boards. Ms. Lull said that anyone with applications in front of either board would be notified about the schedule.

At last Thursday’s meeting the board discussed the fact that there is one application in front of the ZBA and a few questions on projects the Planning Board needs to review.

“They can’t make any action until they get the hours of training,” said Councilman Bob Balcom. At least four hours of training is required before a member can serve on either the ZBA or the Planning Board.

Also at the meeting:

• The board heard from several residents about a request to allow alcoholic beverages at Crellin Park for a horseshoe tournament hosted by the local Lions Club. The club was supposed to bring the issue in front of the board that night, but after the meeting Ms. Lull told The Columbia Paper that the Lions have withdrawn their request for a public hearing.

All of the residents who spoke opposed allowing alcohol to be served at a town park which, as resident Tammy Shaw pointed out, is tobacco free. She stressed that letting one group have alcohol in the park would be opening up a “can of worms.”

Councilman John Wapner, who is on the town Crellin Park Committee and had heard the proposal from the Lion’s Club at a committee meeting, said the club planned to hire a company to check IDs and serve the alcohol in a cordoned-off space. He stressed that this would be a special event that the club will host. “Not unlike the Octoberfeast, not unlike the fair,” he said

• In another matter related to the park, Cait Denny spoke about leasing a half acre from the town for the Children’s Garden Program. She said the program was growing out of the space it already used and that she would fund it through tuition and grants, as well as donations. She is working on getting not-for-profit tax status and a board to help with the program.

Town Attorney Salvatore Ferlazzo, who was at the meeting, plans to prepare a motion on the request for the board to review at the next meeting

• Rick Werwaiss, president of the North Chatham Library Board of Trustees, attended the meeting to clear up some confusion on town residents’ tax bills. For the first time this year, the budget for the library appeared on a separate line on property tax bills and referred to the funding as a 100% increase. He stressed that there was no increase in people’s taxes due to the library. He said the portion the town pays to fund the library, $65,000, has not changed since 2003.

Mr. Werwaiss talked about the many events the library hosts and the thousands of people who use its services. “You are getting a fantastic return on your investment,” he told the board. He said the total budget for the library was close to $100,000 and that trustees must raise funds to pay for the balance not covered by public funds. There will be a library fundraiser January 27 at The Creamery. More information is at northchathamlibrary.org

• Supervisor Lull started the meeting with a State of Town address, during which she talked about the budget issue the Town Board dealt with at the end of 2016 and the new budget process. Reading from the prepared report at the meeting, she said, “The Town of Chatham is leaner; it is stronger; and it is now strategically prepared to meet the challenges of the future.”

She also talked about future plans, including new zoning laws that are being updated by a town committee, infrastructure projects and new communications tools, like the town’s Facebook page.

The next meeting is February 16 at 6 p.m. at the town hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email moc.r1508811482epapa1508811482ibmul1508811482oc@el1508811482adsae1508811482te1508811482

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