Chatham pauses to see where its zoning plan’s at

CHATHAM–The Town Board held a workshop August 28 to address questions and concerns about the proposed new zoning law. The meeting room was full, with some residents asking questions and voicing concerns as the board reviewed proposals on regulating accessory buildings, mines and noise levels, among other issues.

The board has been soliciting questions and concerns from residents about the proposed zoning for the last few months; a public meeting in June was followed by question-and-answer meetings in July with two board members at each session talking with residents. The board also held workshop meetings in August.

At the end of the two-hour-long meeting last week, the board put the question-and-answer meetings on pause as they work on creating a new document with the updated zoning proposals for residents to review. When asked about a time line for passing the new law, board members said they were following a process that would involve updating the proposed law and then having it reviewed by the town planner and town attorney before they would release it again for public comment.

“Let’s go through the process and see what questions are still lingering out there,” said Councilman Michael Richardson. He stressed during the public comment period of the meeting that “many, many of the issues… have been addressed,” in the process so far but that he wanted to see a new, updated document. “It needs to take shape,” he said of the updated proposed law.

Resident Abi Mesick, who is running on for a seat on the board this November on the Republican line, pointed out that changes had been made in the proposed zoning law through comments made at the question-and-answer meetings, including some changes made that night at the workshop meeting.

“There isn’t any emergency,” she said of passing the new law, and stressed that the board should continue taking questions and hearing concerns.

Donal Collins, who is running for Town Supervisor on the Republican line, also urged the board to continue the question-and-answer sessions and said he had more questions for the board about issues in the zoning.

Councilman Bob Balcom, who was on the town’s Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, which reviewed the zoning and proposed the changes to the board a year ago, said that the board has had five major issues with projects in the town that the current zoning law does not address. He said two of those issues needed a new town law in place before they could be resolved. Mr. Balcom also said there was another project on the horizon – a plan for a farm, hotel, brewery, winery and distillery among other things on the site of the Old Chatham Sheepherding Co.

He said the board needs to get the new zoning code in place and then work on updating the town Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted by the board in 2009. After the Comprehensive Plan was adopted, the board created a Zoning Implementation Committee (ZIC) to review the zoning laws. The town hired a planner Nan Stolzenberg about three years ago to work with a new committee to review the changes. The board had planned to vote on the new zoning earlier this summer but put off approving the new law so they could make changes based on residents’ concerns.

Gabriella Sperry, who is currently town Planning Board chair and is running for seat on the Town Board, along with Supervisor Maria Lull and Councilman Richardson on the Democratic ballot line, said that Town Board members have been “absolutely killing themselves” to get the zoning updated.

Some other residents at the meeting were concerned that their questions on the proposed zoning have not been addressed. And when board members said that some of the questions were repeats or have already been addressed, the residents asked that the questions be posted on the town’s website.

Supervisor Lull said the board is finishing up with the questions already asked. Councilman John Wapner talked about posting answers online with a general statement addressing questions that would be on the website.

The latest proposed zoning document will be posted on the town website at

The board’s next regular meeting will be Thursday, September 19 at 6 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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