Village presses ahead with zoning updates

CHATHAM–The Village Board held a public hearing on proposed updates to the village zoning code on Tuesday, September 3. The proposed changes, which include a new zoning map, new and/or updated definitions and a new use table, were suggested to the board by a village committee formed after the board approved an updated Comprehensive Plan in 2015. The changes the committee first proposed to the Village Board about two years ago were based on changes made to Comprehensive Plan.

Committee Chair Lael Locke explained that the Comprehensive Plan is a road map for the future development in the village. “Zoning is what puts the teeth” in the plan, she said.

Mayor John Howe said of the updates, “This process should have ended a year ago and been voted on.” The committee had presented their changes to the board and held a public hearing on the changes in 2017. Mayor Howe said the board at the time had other issues to deal with and, when he was elected last spring, he promised to have the new code resolved before Labor Day.

The mayor also said that the Village Board needed hold a second public hearing due to timing issues with state requirements. The hearing will most likely happen in October and then the board can vote on adopting the zoning changes.

Mayor Howe stressed that the zoning was one part of the village code. He said all of the village codes need to be reviewed and updated, and once the zoning is updated the board will start the work on the updating the other sections of the village code.

This is zoning for the village not the Towns of Chatham or Ghent. “The village is its own entity,” the mayor said. The village stretches across the boundary between the two towns, but the zoning codes for the towns do not regulate property in the village. He said that any change the towns make to their zoning “does not apply to us.”

The Town of Chatham is currently working on a major update of its zoning law, including regulations on short-term rentals, like the ones offered on the website Airbnb. The process they are going through has caused concerns from town residents and some village residents. Ghent is also reviewing its zoning. According an email from GhentCAN, the town’s Zoning Review Committee met to revise the provisions relating to slaughterhouses, sawmills, non-nuisance industries, and event venues. The committee plans to present the updates to the Town Board September 12 at 6 p.m. at the Ghent Town Hall.

According to Ms. Locke, the Village of Chatham zoning committee reviewed all 128 definitions in the village zoning code, adding some and editing others. Village Attorney Ken Dow said that the committee had clarified some definitions. He also reviewed and made some changes to the proposed zoning. He said the biggest change being proposed was the zoning map, which has a historic overlay district and reduces the residential suburban zones in the village. Mr. Dow also said the changes would streamline applications for special use permits.

He also said parts of the village zoning code were not changed at all in the update.

Short-term rentals are not part of proposed zoning. According to Ms. Locke the committee finished its work two years ago, before short-term rentals became an issue.

When audience members started talking about the matter, Trustee Jaimee Boehme said of short-term rental regulations, “It’s something that we’re going to have to look at in the future.” But she added that it should not derail the current revision process, saying, it’s “not an issue that needs to set this document back.”

Another issue that concerned at least one resident is the proposed change in density, which he said would allow for more buildings on smaller lots. There were also concerns with safety and having houses being close together.

Both Ms. Locke and committee member Phil Persinger talked about having small houses on properties as an option. Ms. Locke talked about accessory buildings on a property that could be used for family members.

Committee member and village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) member Brin Quell said, “There are people that need homes of all kinds.” She also said that projects would still have to come before the Planning Board and the ZBA for review, and the Planning Board and the ZBA have been working with the village fire company on the safety issue.

Mayor Howe said the fire company is currently reviewing two site plans from the village Planning Board for safety.

Currently the water and sewer system in the village could handle more development, the mayor said.

Mr. Howe said the board would review the issues brought up at the meeting, but he also made clear that his goal was “to finish this” process. At the regular Village Board meeting on Monday, September 9, the board set the date for another workshop to review the questions and issues brought up at the public hearing and they set the date for the next public hearing on the zoning. The board will hold a workshop on the proposed changes to the zoning on Monday, September 23 at 6 p.m. and the public hearing will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 14 before the board’s regular monthly meeting.

The proposed changes to the zoning are on the village website at villageofchatham.com

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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