Efforts by village to fast track zoning proceed slowly

CHATHAM – Members of the Village Board reviewed proposed changes to the village zoning law at a special meeting last month.

Mayor Tom Curran and board members Lenore Packet, Gunnar Wordon and Mike Wollowitz reviewed the changes that Village Attorney Ken Dow made to several parts of a draft for the updated zoning law, including the definitions for the law for home occupations, the requirements for the site plan review and special use permits.

After about two hours of reviewing the changes, Mr. Wollowitz suggested that the changes be shared through a Google doc (online), with board members making comments there for Mr. Dow to review. Mr. Wollowitz pointed out that the board supported most of the changes Mr. Dow had made to the original draft created by the village Zoning Revision Committee.

The Village Board updated its Comprehensive Plan in 2015 and at that time created the Zoning Revision Committee to review the village zoning law to make sure the law is in agreement with the changes in the plan.

In May of 2017 the committee held a special meeting with the Village Board to discuss the proposed changes. The Village Board asked Mr. Dow to review the changes and make suggestion.

After the meeting on February 13, the board had still not set date for a vote on the proposed new zoning law.

“We have to go through the process,” Mayor Curran said after the meeting. He said the board is reviewing the proposed changes to make sure the zoning law is right for the community.

Mr. Dow said of the proposed zoning law that the committee presented to the Village Board last year, “It’s in pretty good shape,” adding that the committee “did good work.”

Before the Village Board can vote on whether to adopt the proposed zoning changes the board must hold a public hearing and listen to suggestions from the community.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect for the public hearing,” Mr. Wollowitz said.

As the changes are reviewed, the Village Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals are working with the current laws, which do not reflect the updated Comprehensive Plan.

Right after the Comprehensive Plan was passed three years ago the board passed a moratorium on new commercial construction in the village while the zoning laws were being reviewed. After several extensions that moratorium was left to expire.

The County Planning Board has also reviewed the changes, according to committee member Lael Locke. At the May 2017 meeting she talked about the board’s review of the changes happening “sooner rather than later.”

When the board appointed the committee, Mr. Wollowitz suggested that review needed to be fast-tracked. At a Village Board meeting in 2015, Matt Rogers, the consultant the committee was working with to update the zoning, said, “I lay out a schedule of 6 to 8 months to finalize the zoning issues.”

At the meeting last week, Zoning Revision Committee member Phil Persinger said that losing the consultant had affected the schedule. Ms. Locke said in an email that Mr. Rogers had pulled back from working with the committee after taking a full time job, but that the committee still runs things by him.

The Village Board did not set another meeting date to continue to review changes with Mr. Dow after the special meeting last week. Board members also did not resolve issues that Trustee Lenore Packet had with the new zoning map the committee has presented. The map changes a section of Route 66 to commercial zoning.

Mr. Persinger, the only committee member at last week’s afternoon meeting, said that the zoning laws should look at what’s coming in the future. “How do you manage growth,” he said of zoning map.

“There are all sorts of things coming down the pike,” he told the board.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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