TWO CANDIDATES SEEK ELECTION as supervisor of the Town of Chatham. That in itself is an important fact for Town of Chatham voters to keep in mind, because a third candidate, Richard W. Hallock, has withdrawn, though his name remains on the ballot’s Conservative line. The two active candidates are incumbent Supervisor Maria Lull, a Democrat, and Donal Collins, running on the Republican line.
As is typical in Chatham, it gets more complicated. Early voting begins this Saturday, October 26, but to take advantage of this new opportunity, Chatham voters must cast their ballot at one of the three early voting poll locations–Valatie, Hudson or Copake–until November 3. The traditional Election Day polls are open November 5.
Keep in mind also that only about half the voters in the Village of Chatham live in the Town of Chatham. The other half live in the Town of Ghent and cast their ballots for Ghent officials. If you have more questions, call the Columbia County Board of Elections at 518-828-3115.
The election in Chatham has been edgy and it erupted last summer over a decision by the Town Board to adopt a new town zoning ordinance that would follow the guidelines of the town Comprehensive Plan. No retelling of what’s happened to this point will satisfy all sides, but it helps to remember how this issue unfolded: Ms. Lull and other board members had promised to adopt the draft zoning law, which has already undergone years of review and revisions by a series of bi-partisan committees. By last summer there was a draft of the law that contained needed protections for features like ridge lines and farming but it also included what some residents saw as aesthetic overreach that would impose a “suburban” standard of taste.
There was also a new section on short-term rental properties, a burgeoning business—think Airbnb—which municipalities around the country are trying to figure out how to regulate.
At first the board resolved to get the zoning law on the books. That only made opponents angrier. But the board heard them and then decided to change course. Ms. Lull and the board members chose compromise and accommodation, and gradually, in the open, worked with opponents to produce a new draft. It remains a work in process but it now incorporates some of opponents’ concerns while satisfying the requirements established by the Comprehensive Plan.
In the meantime, the board has been advancing other projects, including the new pavilion at Crellin Park, a water resources mapping project, environmentally sound heating at the town garage and the successful transfer of land to the State Police for a barracks on state Route 295 near Town Hall.
These are examples of leadership, a hallmark of Ms. Lull’s first term. She’s not good a sugarcoating issues. But what shows through is her judgment, which results from years on the Town Planning Board and the Town Board.
Mr. Collins is a bright and thoughtful person. He has not previously been elected to a public office. His campaign offers reassuring generalities, but that’s not the same as laying out plans for what he would do differently as supervisor.
It’s also distressing not to hear him distance himself from lawn signs that deliberately distort Ms. Lull’s views on development in the town. These signs were not silly slogans, they are disinformation typical of the trolling that so pollutes the national political scene.
The Town of Chatham’s finances are sound now—they weren’t when Ms. Lull took over four years ago. Taxpayers can readily see how wisely their money is spent.
It’s understandable that some folks on both sides will still feel bruised by the zoning effort. But this town is engaged a process that is difficult, messy and absolutely essential. It’s called progress. The leader of that forward movement is Maria Lull, the right person to build on the gains the town has made.
Please reelect Maria Lull supervisor of the Town of Chatham.