CHATHAM—At a special meeting on April 13, the Town Board approved hiring planner Michael Allen of Regrowth Planning for an amount not to exceed $19,090. Mr. Allen will work with the town’s Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee on updating the town’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan.
Originally the committee co-chair, Councilwoman Abi Mesick, asked to hire Mr. Allen at $42,000 to work for about a year on the update. Board members expressed concern, since, as Councilman Vance Pitkin said, “We don’t know what we don’t know” about what needs to be changed in the plan before spending the money and working on a major revision. The board voted down Mr. Allen’s whole proposal 3 to 2 and asked if he could do the work instead in pieces, starting with a survey to determine what updates are needed.
Mr. Allen attended an online meeting on April 1 to review his process, and said he would be comfortable working on the first few tasks of the proposal he sent to the town. At that meeting the planner said as town officials go through the first few steps in his plan, he and the town can “decide if we are both happy with each other.”
The new, shorter proposal from Mr. Allen includes information on trends and demographics in the town, a public meeting and a town-wide survey. The plan is posted on the town’s website with the agenda for the special meeting.
At the April 13 meeting, Councilman John Wapner said he reached out to Mr. Allen personally. Mr. Wapner said that Mr. Allen was open to the idea of “doing something different” from what was in his original proposal after the survey is complete and if his work with the town continues.
Councilman Pitkin, who had voiced his concerns about hiring Mr. Allen at a meeting earlier this month, said he was in favor of moving forward with this new plan. At a regular board meeting on April 15, the board approved Mr. Pitkin joining the Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee.
Also at the April 15 meeting, the board discussed the Chatham Parks and Recreation Master Plan, a project separate from the Comprehensive Plan, about recreation in the town. The park plan is also on the town website for the public view. Mr. Wapner said he wanted to review the plan at a workshop meeting, taking public comment so that the board can finalize it so that the town can “put it behind us and use it.”
Councilwoman Mesick said though she liked the plan, it had a small number of public comments. She suggested the board “be patient a little while longer” and work with the planner on the survey for questions on recreation.
During the discussion she also said that “now there is talk about a community center” which would require more community input.
‘Put it behind us and use it…’
Councilman John Wapner
Town of Chatham
“The report was ready two years ago,” said Mr. Wapner, and of the board approving it, he said, “just can’t wait any longer.” He said there is “an important negotiation that needs a plan” that he didn’t want to go into publicly, and that he didn’t think more time would mean more changes to the plan.
Ms. Mesick asked about the rush to get the plan approved.
“At some point we just have to move forward,” said Mr. Wapner. He added that the town could always amend a plan, calling it “a living document.”
Supervisor Donal Collins asked Ms. Mesick to get a timeline for a survey and bring that to the board.
Also at the April 15 meeting:
* In another matter, the board approved moving forward with the summer day camp recreation program this year. Recreation Director Mike West presented guidelines at the April 15 meeting, based on last year’s guidelines from the county Department of Health, for the general day camp program. The board passed a motion to accept the health protocols and, barring any surge of cases in the area, the summer camp program for kids will take place
* The board voted on Local Law #2, a law that changes the zoning regulations on lot lines. One resident, Telisport Putsavage, voiced concerns about the proposed law, asking why the board was in a rush to pass “what is actually a poorly drafted proposal.”
The chairs of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the town attorney reviewed the resident’s concerns with the board at the meeting before the board voted unanimously to approve the law. Supervisor Collins thanked the chairs and the attorney for their work on the new law and Mr. Putsavage for his input
* The board voted to approve applying for a state Hudson Valley Greenway grant for the Comprehensive Plan update costs
* The board also voted to have a resolution at their next meeting to change the street lighting in the East Chatham Lighting District to LED bulbs.
The next regular meeting will be Thursday, May 20 at 6:30 p.m. Currently meetings are held online. For information about how to attend the meetings, go to www.chathamnewyork.us