Chatham’s problem isn’t the dirt, it’s the wording

CHATHAM–The town Zoning Board of Appeals reviewed the application for a special use permit from Flying Deer Nature Center at the regular ZBA meeting July 27. Flying Deer, a not-for-profit education center, hopes to move to donated property on Daley Road, a dirt lane.

In early April, the center was granted a waiver by the Town Board, exempting Flying Deer from the town’s moratorium that bars new construction along the town’s dirt roads. The waiver allowed Flying Deer to submit applications to the ZBA for a special use permit and to the Planning Board for a site plan review and approval. The town is currently updating its zoning law and adopted the moratorium about two years ago while the law update process continued.

In June the ZBA and Planning Board held a joint public hearing on the Flying Deer applications. The major issue raised at that meeting was traffic flow on Daley Road if the camp is allowed to operate there.

At the July 27 meeting of the ZBA, Claiborne Walthall, a lawyer for Flying Deer, said that his clients had hired a traffic engineer who would have a report for the boards to review. He also said Flying Deer representatives had gone to the Town Board meeting the week before to update Town Board members on the progress of the application. He reported that town Highway Superintendent Joe Rickert does not see a problem with the added traffic on the road. “He feels very comfortable with what we’re proposing,” Mr. Walthall told the ZBA.

Mr. Walthall also told the board that the group’s traffic engineer has determined that the road is safe and that, at most, use of the road by Flying Deer would amount to 50 cars a day for a few weeks in the summer and at the Flying Deer Day event in June.

The camp plans to direct traffic toward County Route 9 and not State Route 295, meaning that drivers would use the road for a shorter distance since the property is only a few houses from Route 9.

Mr. Walthall also talked about signs for the camp and having staff on the road to direct cars.

ZBA member Michael Richardson pointed out that this board was only looking at a special use permit application, which wouldn’t look at signage but would be concerned with the hours and days of operation.

The center representatives said they would use the site for programs 180 days a year. Flying Deer board member Meg Agnew, who was at the meeting representing the center, said the organization might still use the site they are at now, which is at the Abode in New Lebanon, and other satellite sites they already use for some programs.

“We don’t want to completely let go of the Abode,” she told the board.

ZBA members did discuss traffic, though one member pointed out there are other events in the town that bring traffic without many issues. Board member Stephen Day mentioned the County Fair, which brings traffic to the Village of Chatham, saying it has “never produced serious issues beyond the obvious–more traffic.”

The ZBA and the Planning Board plan to have two joint meetings next month–August 8 and 24–to review the application. Town Attorney John Lyons said that the purpose of the two boards meeting together was to make sure the wording in a special use permit and the site plan review would “complement each other.”

Mr. Walthall asked if there could be a motion passed at the August 8 meeting, saying, “There has also been a lot of discussion.”

Mr. Lyons stressed that the approval process hadn’t taken long and that “we need to take the time” to get the wording right for the approvals. “It’s not like we are dragging our feet on this,” he said.

He pointed out that the approvals the ZBA grants will “run with the land.” Future boards will have to look these approvals and understand their intent if the property changes owners again.

The next meeting for both boards will be Tuesday, August 8 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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