New Chatham board revisits ‘hot button issue’

CHATHAM–The Town Board plans to take on some amendments to the town zoning code. The board appointed members to a new Comprehensive Plan Committee to review the 2009 plan but Supervisor Donal Collins pointed out at the January 16 board meeting that the plan’s “update review is going to take some time,” and he said that there were zoning issues that needed to be addressed sooner.

At the top of the board’s list is short-term rental (STR) regulations.

“Short-term rentals has been a hot-button issue,” Councilwoman Abi Mesick said, referring to last year, when several residents protested a proposed new zoning law that included STR regulations among the changes. Ms. Mesick, along with Mr. Collins and board member Vance Pitkin, were elected to board in November.

“I do think they should be somehow regulated,” Ms. Mesick said at the meeting, adding that for the town “to be responsible, we should keep track of these uses.” She said she is working on wording for a zoning law that would require a permit for STRs. She has looked at other municipalities, including Hillsdale and the Town of Jewitt in Greene County, that have passed STR regulations.

She also stressed that Chatham didn’t need laws like those adopted by municipalities in New Jersey or Massachusetts, because she doesn’t consider this area to be “that big of an attraction.” Later in the meeting she said that according to numbers she’d seen, less than 1% of the residences in the town are STRs. “We need to keep in mind the scope of the issue,” she said.

Councilman John Wapner said that he hoped that any wording of STR regulations would have a residency requirement for the owner or “have some sort of sun-downing” so that the regulations would be reviewed shortly after being put in place. He stressed that the properties need to be resident-owned.

Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea said that there might be some constitutional issues with discriminating against non-residents. Ms. Mesick said there would be a requirement in the proposed regulation to have a “contact person” who lives within 20 miles of a short-term rental property.

She also stressed that she is still working on the language, saying, “It’s a baby step, it’s a positive step.” At the end of the meeting, Ms. Mesick said of a resident’s concern about the STR regulations, “It is a first step,” emphasizing this was not the end of the process but the beginning. The board plans to talk more about these proposed zoning amendments at the February 6 workshop meeting.

Also at the workshop, the board will look at transferring the review of special use permit applications from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to the Planning Board. Planning Board Chair Gabriella Sperry said it would save time and cause less stress for the applicants and the board if the Planning Board had responsibility for issuing special use permits. And ZBA Chair Daniel Persing said that in other municipalities it is typically the Planning Boards that issue special use permits.

The board also plans to look at correcting the wording of agricultural setback requirements. An issue involving the wording came before the ZBA a few years ago in a dispute involving Mr. Collins and Ms. Mesick, and a neighbor of theirs.

Mr. Collins said he was going to look into having alternates for the Planning Board and ZBA.

The board may discuss lot line adjustments and simplifying that process, as well.

The board also announced at the January meeting that they are looking for representatives from the town’s hamlets to serve as liaisons to the board. Interested residents should contact the board.

Also at the meeting:

• The board tabled passing a motion to renew the Enhanced Enforcement Patrol contract with the county Sheriff’s Office. Resident David Levow read a letter at the beginning of the meeting urging the board to table the resolution “pending further study.” He took issue with the town using the program to raise revenue especially since “it turns out that there is no way to determine how much or if, in fact any revenue is derived from these enhanced patrols.”

Mr. Collins said that he would have a representative from the sheriff’s office make a presentation at a town meeting about the program, which does not need to be renewed until March. Ms. Mesick said that she had heard from many residents that speeding is an issue but, “I’m opposed to using ticketing as a revenue”

• The board plans to appoint Tammy Shaw confidential administrative assistant to the supervisor. There will be a public hearing on creating the position at the February workshop. Ms. Shaw was the Highway Department secretary and then became the budget officer. Concerns were raised at a meeting earlier in the month about Ms. Shaw’s title and Civil Service. Mr. Collins said he talked with county Civil Service officials and was advised to create a new title. Mr. Collins called Ms. Shaw “an invaluable employee”

• The board discussed hiring an instructor for the summer garden program at Crellin Park. Ms. Mesick has questions about “how each component works” at Crellin Park. The board discussed having a workshop on the park program

• The board passed a motion to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for a Town Attorney (municipal, land use and planning). And members passed a motion to appoint UHY LLP as Town Accounting Officer. UHY LLP is the new name of a firm formerly called Pattison, Koskey, Howe and Bucci, CPAs, which the town has been using. Mr. Collins said the firm has gone through a merger so the name has changed but the town will still be working with the same accountants.

The next board meeting will be the workshop meeting on Thursday, February 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Tri-Village Firehouse, 111 CR 13, Old Chatham.

The next regular meeting with be February 20.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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