Flying Deer set to land in Chatham

CHATHAM–The town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board gave their approvals last week to the Flying Deer Nature Center’s plan to operate programs and events on over 100 acres on Daley Road.

At a joint meeting of the two boards August 24, the ZBA approved the not-for-profit nature center’s request for special use permit to use the property for its camp. But the decision came with a long list of conditions, including a limit on the number of people permitted on the property (50 for programs and 175 for “Flying Deer Day”) and a limit on the number of days Flying Deer may operate at the site (180 a year).

The ZBA also ruled that “any new programs operated by Flying Deer Nature Center must not substantially increase traffic to Daley Road.”

The Planning Board had its own list of conditions for granting site plan approval, though many were the same as the requirements set by the ZBA. The Planning Board resolution included wording on traffic impacts on Daley Road being minimized saying, “Flying Deer will use diligent efforts to direct program traffic to approach and depart 122 Daley Road from County Route 9.” The property is closer to county Route 9 than to state Route 295 and the camp plans to have participants enter and exit at the Route 9 junction.

Planning Board Chair Gabrriella Sperry read a history of the review process that has taken place since Flying Deer representatives first came before the boards in April, saying that her board had “considered the Town of Chatham Comprehensive Plan, public comment, comment from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and input from the Columbia County Department of Health, Town of Chatham Highway Department, the Town Board and town and project consultants.”

After the approvals were announced, Larry Machiz, the lawyer for Jeanne and David Laskin, who own the Daley Road property, thanked the boards. “You guys have run a model process,” Mr. Machiz said. He praised the boards for guarding the town’s interests while also respecting the applicant.

The Laskins and Flying Deer came to the Town Board last winter asking for a waiver on the town’s moratorium on new construction on dirt roads. The moratorium remains in place while the town finishes revisions to its zoning law.

The waiver that the Town Board granted was a necessary first step because it allowed the Flying Deer proposal to move forward with applications to the Planning Board for site plan review and to the ZBA for the special use permit.

Mrs. Laskin had been trying to sell the property but she said at previous meetings that if the town approved the nature center’s plans, which would not change the property significantly, she would not put the land on the back on the market and instead would donate it to Flying Deer.

The Town Hall was packed for the public hearing in June on the proposals. Most people who came supported Flying Deer, but several residents on the road came with concerns about the traffic on the residential road. It is in the R2 Zoning District, which allows for several uses including farms, golf courses, tennis courts and pubic outdoor recreational facilities, as well as residential family dwellings.

Currently Flying Deer runs the nature center out of the Abode in New Lebanon.

The ZBA meetings on the fourth Thursday of the month and the Planning Board meetings are on the second Tuesday. Both meetings are at 7 p.m. at the Chatham Town Hall on Route 295.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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