Supervisor-elect asks board to put zoning on hold

CHATHAM–The Town Board approved the 2020 town budget at the board meeting Thursday, November 7. The general fund and the Highway Department together total about $3.1 million.

Other expenses, which include funds for fire companies, lighting districts and the public library, bring spending to about $3.6 million, with next year’s budget showing a 5% decrease in the tax levy.

The board held a public hearing on the budget before the regular meeting. Donal Collins, who was elected Town Supervisor November 5, thanked the current board for their work on the budget. The one change he asked for was that the board add more funds for legal consultations in the budget. He said he felt there would be legal issues with the turnover on the board and with zoning issues.

Later in the meeting, both Mr. Collins and Town Board member-elect Abi Mesick urged the board to stop any more discussion on the controversial zoning law proposal.

The proposed zoning update has been an issue for the board for several years. After two different committees and the town planner, as well the town attorney for land use, reviewed the zoning, the board planned to pass an updated law in June. But that vote was held up by one section that conflicted with state law. There had been community outcry over the proposed zoning, which at first was focused on proposed regulations of short-term rentals. The board decided to continue reviewing the proposed zoning law and held several public meetings and question and answer sessions with residents about zoning. The board had recently come up with a modified draft zoning law that was being reviewed by the county Planning Board last month.

Mr. Collins, running on the Republican and SAM (Serve America Movement) ballot lines, defeated current Town Supervisor Maria Lull in the November 5 election. Ms. Mesick and Vance Pitkin, both running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence ballot lines, also won seats on the board. Current Councilman Michael Richardson, who ran on the Democratic and Chatham Unity Party line, lost his seat. Incumbent Councilman Bob Balcom did not run for reelection. The newly elected members of the board will take office January 1.

Although the election results are still unofficial, the final vote totals are unlikely to alter the outcome of the Chatham races.

The current board voted unanimously November 7 to pass the budget with no changes. Mr. Balcom was not at the meeting.

Mr. Collins and Ms. Mesick also asked that the current board not appoint members to a new Comprehensive Plan review committee.

Ms. Mesick thanked the current board “for all the work you have done.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved bids for work on a pavilion at Crellin Park. The work will finish the pavilion, which is currently only a roof, near the pond at the town park. The new pavilion will have changing rooms, bathrooms and a kitchen space, as well as space for events.

Councilman John Wapner, who is on the town’s Recreation Committee, wanted to make sure that the companies doing the work understood that it needs to be done before the town’s summer camp program starts.

Architect Bill Wallace, who presented the bids, said, “They have a start date and an end date.” The plan is for work to start this spring and end before the summer.

In 2013 the town demolished the pavilion near the pond due to problems with the foundation. The board at that time then contracted to have a roof built and rent portable toilets for that part of the park during the summer. There is another pavilion with bathrooms in another area in the park that is used during the summer day camp program and for other events.

Last winter the board approved borrowing about $225,000 to finish the pavilion project. The funds were for the design and work on the project. In July, Mr. Wapner said construction bids had come in higher than expected. At the November meeting, the board reviewed and rewarded bids for the project at a cost of about $380,000.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, November 21 at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall on Route 295.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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