Omi eyes artists’ spaces in Chatham’s ‘culture zone’

CHATHAM – The Chatham Town Board held its monthly meeting on Thursday, August 19 under the pavilion at Crellin Park. At the meeting board members approved a survey on the Comprehensive Plan update, heard an update on the Albany Turnpike Bridge traffic light, and listened to residents about their issues with a new project being reviewed by the Planning Board off state Route 66 in the town just outside the Village of Chatham.

Art Omi, a not-for-profit arts center with a 120-acre sculpture and architecture park and gallery in Town of Ghent, has an application in front of the Town of Chatham’s Planning Board “for Site Plan Review and Special Use Permit” for Art Omi Pavilions. According to the May minutes of the Planning Board, Francis Greenburger, founder and chairman of Art Omi Inc., said this had been a “longtime idea” for the organization’s world-renowned artists program.

At the Chatham site, artists would influence their own “pavilion design.” The plan is for about 12 pavilions, which would range from 2,500 to 5,700 square feet. “The entire project is designed so the affected acreage maintains its natural state as much as possible,” according to the Planning Board’s minutes.

At that meeting, architect William Wallace “discussed the submitted documents [that] will include a storm water report, traffic impact, parking plan, full project build out.” Omi was back in front of the board in June and July about the project.

Minutes are posted on the town’s website,

At the Town Board meeting August 19, two neighbors who live near the development, spoke to the board about their concerns. Resident Kimberly Costigen mentioned other developments in the area, including PS21, a performance space, and a proposal for a community center at Crellin Park.

Ms. Costigen, who also wrote a letter to the board, said she felt the town was putting the “cart before the horse” by considering this development in the area without the infrastructure. She said the houses along the road rely on well water and that due to some other development a few years ago, she has issues with calcium in her well and said she ran out of hot water that week.

Ms. Costigen’s letter to the board, signed by 10 neighbors in the area, said that PS21 draws from the water table for recreational purposes. “Will the recreational demands of a proposed art center cause additional stress on the water table?” she wrote.

Another resident, Linda Laurange, also asked about run-off from the site. “This is all downhill,” she said. She also sent a letter to the board raising concerns about the project.

‘Documents will include a storm water report, traffic impact, parking plan, full project build-out.’

Architect William Wallace

Art Omi’s Chatham project

The minutes from the June Planning Board meeting say that the “12 pavilions are located within their own ‘envelope’ with the Welcome Center in the middle. And the plans show the septic lines, as well as a water line, to each pavilion. At that meeting there was discussion about run-off. One section of the minutes read, “Runoff water will be handled by culverts placed as needed….to send water back into the fields. The project is away from the wetlands on the property, which are down near the railroad tracks.”

Planning Board Chair Gabriella Sperry was at the August 19 Town Board meeting and responded to the residents, saying that the town’s engineer will review all issues including the water. The next planning board meeting will be September 14 at 7 p.m.

During the Town Board meeting, Ms. Costigen talked about a section of the town’s current Comprehensive Plan that does not allow the town to hook-up to the Village of Chatham municipal water system.

“I would beg, beg the town to reconsider that,” she said.

Town Supervisor Donal Collins said that the Comprehensive Plan was being updated and that issue will be addressed.

The Town Board plans to release a survey about the Comprehensive Plan updates, which the board approved at the meeting. Residents will receive a postcard inviting them to fill out the survey. Residents who do not fill out the survey online will receive a paper copy.

Also at the August 19 Town Board meeting, Tom Baird, from Barton and Loguidice, the engineering firm on the Albany Turnpike Bridge project announced that work has been delayed due to a shortage in materials for the traffic light pole.

Mr. Baird said the shortages in materials are a “very real thing.” He said he couldn’t give a date when work will start but that he would keep the board updated on the project. The light will go over the bridge in East Chatham and will be the only traffic light in the town.

The next Town Board meeting will be September 16 at 7 p.m. Information on where the meeting will be held will be on the Chatham Town website.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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