Town of Chatham has plenty of plans for better zoning

CHATHAM–The Town Board met last week with Nan Stolzenburg, a community planning consultant, to look over the changes made to the town zoning law by the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.

Ms. Stolzenburg suggested that when the committee has finished with its work and the Town Board reviews the proposed changes to the law, the board should “rescind the old law and replace it with the update.” Because, she said, “there are just way too many places where we’ve made changes.”

The Town Board adopted the Comprehensive Plan in 2009. The board then created a committee called the Zoning Implementation Committee (ZIC) to make sure the town’s zoning law was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

In 2016 the board hired Ms. Stolzenburg to review changes suggested by ZIC.

In April 2016 the board held a special meeting with Ms. Stolzenburg about the ZIC’s proposals. At that time she said that the there was a real philosophical difference between what the ZIC recommended and what the town’s Comprehensive Plan called for. She also pointed out that there needed to be more definitions to guide the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

The board then created Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, chaired by Councilman Bob Balcom, to review the changes again and to make sure those changes reflected the Comprehensive Plan.

Ms. Stolzenburg said at the February 1 meeting that all the major and minor recommendations from the comprehensive plan have been incorporated in the proposed new zoning law. She also said there are still some details that need to be considered, like what requires a special use permit.

The board also discussed the suggestions from the town Roads Committee and how they would fit in zoning law changes. Ms. Stolzenburg talked about the town working with the Highway Department on road maintenance plans.

She also talked to the board about hiring the town engineer to review highway and road standards for the town. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel on these programs,” she advised the board. “There are tools out there” for conducting a roads review.

The Roads Committee presented its suggestions to the board about road conditions and maintenance last November and was then dissolved. Ms. Stolzenburg said that some of Roads Committee suggestions might become board and Highway Department policies that need to be set by the board.

She did stress that the board needed to move forward with making some changes to the town’s zoning law since the current law “doesn’t help either the Planning Board or the applicant.”

“We’ve got to move the needle,” she told the board.

The board discussed how to move forward without going over the proposed changes line by line.

Mr. Balcom said the committee had already gone through every line of the current zoning law to make changes.

“Phase I took a lot longer than we expected,” he said of the committee’s review. They are now working on Phase II for the review, which includes looking at subdivision zoning.

The Town Board members agreed with Ms. Stolzenburg’s suggestion that she flag some parts of the changes for board members to review.

“The committee did a lot of work,” said Ms. Stolzenburg. But she also told the board that with the zoning law, “It’s gotta fit you like a glove. Your glove, not mine.”

Town Supervisor Maria Lull said of the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, “They have been dedicated, to the point where they want to be finished.”

Before any new zoning laws take effect, the measures must be approved by the Town Board. Then there must be a public hearing, followed by an opportunity for the board to make changes before adopting the new laws. Ms. Stolzenburg said they were looking at July before anything would be finalized.

Several reports, including those of the Roads Committee report and the ZIC’s report, are on the town’s website, http://chathamnewyork.us/committees.

The board plans to meet again with Ms. Stolzenburg Wednesday, March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email moc.r1534539450epapa1534539450ibmul1534539450oc@el1534539450adsae1534539450te1534539450

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