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Regionally, the misalignment between the economy and its demographics is of grave concern

Take some time to look at this report, OUT OF ALIGNMENT
AN OVERVIEW OF THE MID-HUDSON VALLEY FROM THE GREAT RECESSION THROUGH 2030
– it’s a must-read for all, especially those who want to find ways for our younger generation to afford to stay!

“Regionally, the misalignment between the economy and its demographics is of grave concern. Overall population growth is essentially flat, and in many areas is declining, dramatically impacting school enrollment. The rapid decline in K-12 population impacts not just our schools, but the availability of a homegrown workforce. The data reflects that the region is getting older, and people are having fewer children than needed to replace the population. Young working-age people, if given the opportunity, leave to seek employment elsewhere, and if they stay, are postponing the formation of families due to the cost of living. Furthermore, high-paying jobs lost in the last two decades have made way for low-skill, low-wage jobs often resulting in workers having to hold down two jobs just to balance their budget.

The ramifications of these trends are alarming.”

Click here: https://www.hvoutofalignment.com/

Please read and share. You can also download the full 44-page Part 1 here.

We’ll keep checking back and share Part 2 when that is available, which will include some suggestions for improvements.

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Mark Your Calendars for Hamlet Meetings! COVID Date Changes

NEW DATES DUE TO CORONAVIRUS PRECAUTIONS – SEE BELOW

The Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee is collecting data and starting their community outreach by having meetings in the different town hamlets to discover the unique issues that exist in these specific hamlets.

The committee will also be doing a general public meeting at the Tri-Village Firehouse, at a later date, to address the needs of the rural communities as well.

(Note: They aren’t tossing out the current Comp Plan, just reviewing it to see what updates need to be made.)

See dates below and keep track of the committee’s road-trip tour, minutes, and link to current Comp Plan here.


The following notice is from the committee:

The Town of Chatham’s Comprehensive Plan was adopted in September of 2009, created from data obtained from a 2004 survey. Although there are many parts of the plan that remain relevant, there have been a number of significant changes in our community over the past 16 years. Regular updates are not only standard practice for Comprehensive Plans, but in Chatham’s case, is also overdue.

“The Plan was developed to cover a 15-year time period with an expectation that it will be reviewed and updated as necessary. However, it should be formally reviewed a minimum of every five to seven years to ensure that it remains a vital document to help guide Chatham in the future.”

Hence, a new Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee (CPURC) has been formed to conduct public outreach, review, research, and suggest potential updates to the Town Board. The character of your hamlet and the community is the focus of the Comp Plan – a vision for the town. We are not writing zoning. We are not rewriting the entire Comp Plan. We are just reviewing it and recommending updates to the Town Board after a thorough analysis of all the data collected. The hamlet meetings are merely one step in the data-collection process, which will also include a town-wide survey.

In an effort to ensure an accurate and thorough data collection process, keeping in mind the following three questions:

1. What are the current conditions, features, and character of Chatham?
2. What does Chatham want for itself in the future?
3. What are the various ways Chatham can attain that desired future state?

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

The New York Planning Federation defines this nicely for us: “A comprehensive plan sets forth a community’s goals and recommended actions which will make the community a good place to live, work and visit. The plan outlines what needs to be done and how to do it in an orderly, well-thought-out fashion and that the needs of the community will be met.

“A comprehensive plan is NOT a static blueprint of how to get to some specific endpoint. It is a living document that provides continual guidance for the work of the community leaders and staff. Municipal decisions need to be weighed against the values and ideas set forth in the plan to ensure that the community is heading in the right direction.”

How can you help us and help yourself?

Whether you have read the current Comprehensive Plan or not, we encourage everyone to participate in open discussions on any thoughts you have on how we can improve our Comprehensive Plan, in general. This plan will have profound effects on our community. Please participate.

It’s important that we collect information on not only what citizens want to see for Chatham’s future but also what they would rather not want to see change. Our Committee is reaching out to obtain further information, including but not limited to the following areas:

  • What has changed?
  • What are old or unresolved issues or new issues?
  • What are things you would like to protect and/or avoid?
  • Is there a project(s) that would make Chatham life better?
Resources on the Town of Chatham Website: https://www.chathamnewyork.us/
Current Comprehensive Plan: https://www.chathamnewyork.us/document_center/Comprehensive%20Plan/Final-comp-plan.pdf
Source Water Protection Plan: https://www.chathamnewyork.us/Source%20Water%20Protection%20plan.pdf
Agriculture Protection Plan: https://www.chathamnewyork.us/FinalAgplan_v5_1009.pdf

The follow are prompts for discussion but please share any opinions you have:

  • Do you want to see businesses that personally serve the people in your hamlet (including home occupations)?
  • Do you want to see businesses that are broader and serve larger than your hamlet?
  • Do you want to consider architectural design guidelines for businesses?
    • Would you like it to be part of the zoning or a suggested guideline?
  • Do you want to consider architectural design guidelines for residential?
  • Would you want your hamlet to obtain historical designation? (Tim to research)
  • Do you want to explore possible water or sewer infrastructure, knowing that it would be an added expense to taxes and monthly bill?
  • Do you want to see the minimum lot size changed in relationship to water availability?
  • What kind of different housing choices do you want in your area – tiny houses, multi-family, etc.
  • Would you be in favor of historic district designation?
  • Where do you see the traffic problems most and is there a specific time of day it occurs?
  • Rail trail concerns – parking, noise (North Chatham and Kinderhook Lake)
  • Kinderhook Lake: noise, people using lake, water quality, parking, building height

Feel free to attend any CPURC meeting at the Town Hall (dates are on the calendar on the Town’s website) or email Councilperson Abi Mesick at amesick@chathamnewyork.us.

We deeply appreciate your participation in this process!

Abi Mesick, Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, Donna Staron, Dave Everett, Tim Mackerer, Jeff Cox, Lucinda Buckley

Please attend the CPURC hamlet meeting in your area!


SATURDAY, MARCH 7th: 

North Chatham Firehouse, 653 Route 32, North Chatham

10am-12pm – North Chatham
1-3pm – Kinderhook Lake 


SATURDAY, MAY 2nd:

Malden Bridge Community Center, 1087 Albany Turnpike, Malden Bridge

10am to 12pm – Malden Bridge, Rayville, Riders Mills

SATURDAY, MAY 9th:

East Chatham Fire Dept, 14 Frisbee St, East Chatham

10am to 12pm – East Chatham

SATURDAY, MAY 16th: 

Tri-Village Firehouse, 111 Co Rd 13, Old Chatham

10am-12pm – Chatham Center
1-3pm – Old Chatham

SATURDAY, JUNE 6th:

The Society of New Concord Meeting House, 2689 County Rd 9, East Chatham

10am-12pm — New Concord


If you cannot attend the meetings, please feel free to contact the Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee to voice your opinions.

NEW LEADERSHIP Voted in to Stop the Oppressive Zoning!

By a landslide victory of, Donal Collins is our new Town Supervisor Elect, defeating Maria Lull by 2:1.

In another striking defeat, Vance Pitkin and Abi Mesick will step into the Town Councilmen seats, beating Michael Richardon and Gabriella Sperry again 2:1.

We are all so grateful for all of our citizens who spent countless hours reading the zoning laws, coming to meetings, sending us emails, and working hard to keep Chatham rural.

Now that the election is over, let’s all reach across the aisle and work together! Join committees and stay involved!

Congratulations, Chatham!

Donal Collins: 915
Maria Lull: 496
Richards Hallock: 30

Vance Pitkin: 930
Abi Mesick: 921
Michael Richardson: 509
Gabriella Sperry: 497

The Inability of the Town Board to Address the Needs of the Disabled

Everyone knows that getting up to the second floor courtroom of the Chatham Town Court is difficult even for able people. It is nearly impossible for persons with any form of disability. As a long-time defense lawyer in that court over nearly 20 years I have witnessed great efforts disabled people make to attend court. You have not seen anything until you see a disabled veteran going up those marble steps on his knees.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II (1990) requires reasonable access be provided to all governmental activities. That requirement is nearly 30 years old. The Chatham Town Board clearly does not see this to be an important obligation for attention. Nothing has been done.

It is true that in 2015 the DeGroodt Board, with Maria Lull as a member, did have discussions with the Village, going to the point of getting construction estimates for various ways to provide an accessible courtroom. However, nothing has been done and the problem remains. Only recently a disabled woman who did get to the courtroom in the Tracy Hall could reportedly not get down to the first floor. She, it seems, had to be carried down by two court officers in a chair. Recently.  The problem remains, having been overtaken by such important matters as decibel levels, trash cans, and numbers of accessory buildings on property. Do these facts show that these Board members running for election Tuesday have our community interests at heart?

The ADA is not local law. Chatham must comply with it. It will take new and sympathetic blood on the Board to do so. I know this subject is on the minds of the candidates Collins, Pitkin, and Mesick. I recommend voting for them to rid our town of this scandal.

Bob Linville
Old Chatham

To All the Residents of Chatham

As we approach Election Day it is appropriate to consider what we have learned about the nature of the present Town Board and the three members seeking our continued support. Who they are and what their views are of the Town and us are now clear.

We have had considerable exposure to them, their dogged views of us, and the nature of the Town. Board members clearly regard our concerns about privacy, government intrusiveness into all aspects of life here, and the value of the Town as it is are wrong, outdated, and, resistant to a bright and better future.

Who Lull, Richardson, and Sperry are, and what they value, are embedded in the draft zoning plan they support. One cannot separate these three members from the features of the plan. To put it a little roughly “ the plan is them.” So, to set the plan aside they must be themselves set aside. They will never accept our oft-expressed outrage at so many of the plan’s terms.

The plan is an acknowledged  cobbleup of paragraphs from other smaller, tighter communities in this state and elsewhere. A more awkward cut- and- paste job cannot be easily be found. And it cost around $100,000 !  No wonder so many of us are outraged.

Back to the present board member candidates. It is clear they will continue to treat town citizens as they have, with ill-disguised impatience and no real response at all. Although they may live here and be a part of the community,  as elected officials they behave as though they only serve a small portion of that community. It is clear as day that they intend for Chatham to be another town entirely.

This means that if we want to preserve the rural nature of the Chatham we love, all three must be defeated Tuesday, and the three who are clearly Chatham people must be elected, for the ongoing welfare of us all. 

I hope and believe a large majority of our voters agree.

Vote for Donal Collins for Chatham Town Supervisor. Vote for Vance Pitkin and Abi Mesick for Chatham Town Council.

Bob Linville
Old Chatham, NY

Why is there so much resistance from the Board and their supporters?

I’ve been thinking about Van Calhoun’s level of rancor and it seems to me that some of the zoning recommendation committee members, and others who are on the Board feel they have done all this work, for all these years, have all this experience, and now who the hell are we, the inexperienced upstart ignorant rabble, to question the wisdom of what they have put together.  

Nevermind that the board members themselves acknowledged over 100 errors in the code.

The telling sentence in Van Calhoun’s recent diatribe, personally attacking Jeanne, for me is: “I watched them work through the problems of creating laws that our people needed but didn’t yet understand.”  It’s such a blatantly paternalistic statement that he knows better what We the People need, even if we don’t understand it.  

And then there’s “it certainly works on townspeople who do not search for the second sentence of a quote.”  Again he portrays an attitude that there are those who are fit to govern and then there are the townspeople.  

I think that is the same motivation that led Maria Lull to file the final draft with the County Planning Board before the changes were complete, and without telling the public.  They have humored us, put up with us, suffered us, and now they are just sick of us.  Van Calhoun thinks Donal, Abi and Vance are out of their depth and he “feels sorry” for them. Patronizing and downright bizarre.

I keep coming back to the code the Board was proud to pass on June 20th, until they acknowledged 100 plus anomalies in July.  The difference was the willingness of a number of ’ordinary’ citizens to read the proposed zoning – just read the thing and speak up about all the mistakes.  

No matter what the Election outcome, our town should be proud of what we have taken on.  This Board is out of line, and it’s time for We the People to put better representation in those seats.

They can’t keep resisting us if they aren’t running our town.

The only way to do that is to vote. There has never been a more important election in Chatham’s history.

Concerned Citizen
Old Chatham
November 1st

Chatham Residents Are For Reasonable Zoning, Not Restrictive Zoning

The Town Board didn’t listen to the residents — again. The Board continues to push ahead with a proposed zoning law that will severely restrict residents’ property rights, hurt local businesses and trades and discourage people from improving their land and the quality of their lives in our Town.

On September 30, 2019, the Town Board released and submitted for County review their latest version of the proposed zoning law. It contains just as many burdensome restrictions as the last version of the proposed law, which hundreds of residents rejected at a public meeting. Its contents make it clear that the Town Board is out of touch with the residents. 

Below are some examples of the onerous  zoning restrictions in the revised law which the Town Board plans to adopt after the election.

* The proposed zoning law now contains over 230 pages of incredibly detailed and weighty regulations which are single spaced with small print — nearly three times more lengthy than the law submitted by the original Zoning Implementation Committee (ZIC) to the Town Board at the end of 2015. These voluminous regulations are more appropriate for Westchester County or Long Island, not a rural town like Chatham. Why do we need so many regulations in our Town?

* The proposed zoning law mandates that 85% of residents’ land in the rural districts must be kept as open space.  (Section 180-32(C)(2)). Residents are not allowed to develop their property in any way if the open space drops below 85%.  So, if you live on a smaller lot with a driveway, house and a pool and you don’t have 85% open space now on your land, you can’t add a garden shed or gazebo. This constitutes a brazen taking of land by the Town Board. Why would the Town Board want such an onerous restriction in our rural Town?

* The proposed zoning law mandates that only 6% of residents’ land in the rural district can be covered by impervious surfaces (i.e., buildings, driveways, patios, etc.).  So, if you have a small lot with improvements now, you may exceed the 6% and may not be able to build anything else on your land.  Residents improving their land increases local taxes and make peoples’ lives better. Why does the Town Board want to severely restrict residents in this way? 

* The proposed zoning law makes it difficult for residents to put small accessory structures on their land (e.g., garden sheds, pools, gazebos, patios, etc.). For example, in the hamlet districts which have a broad range of parcel size and configurations, accessory structures are not allowed in the front yard between the street and the house. (Section 180-36(D)(7)). So,        residents with larger lots and long driveways can’t use the front of their land. Then, curiously, the section immediately following (Section 180-36(D)(8)) directly contradicts that rule.

* The proposed zoning law prohibits accessory structures located closer than thirty-five feet from your home. (Section 180-36(D)(6)). This prevents, for example, people from putting a woodshed close to their house so they don’t have to walk in the snow and rain to get wood for their fireplaces. Throughout the Town there are countless accessory structures close to homes. Why are they a problem now?

* The proposed zoning law prohibits residents from expanding their homes to add an accessory apartment for their elderly parents or family members.  (Section 180-36(C)(2)). Interestingly, the law allows home expansions for other uses, but not for in-law apartments. Why does the Town Board want to discourage this form of affordable housing for our families?

* The proposed zoning law requires residents to go through a site plan approval process with the Planning Board to build an accessory structure over 700 square feet, such as a pool with a deck or a 3-car garage, in the rural districts.  (Table 2, Section 180-36(E).  This expensive process will take months to complete.  Comically, the law allows homes to be built as large as 15,000 sf (Section 180-32(C)(2)) without site plan approval (Section 180-29(B)(1)) but requires it for a small garage. 

These pointless and onerous restrictions on residential land will increase the number of people seeking variances from the ZBA (through a lengthy and expensive review process) because they simply want to improve their land. It doesn’t make any sense. Other proposed zoning regulations don’t make any sense, either:

* The proposed zoning law imposes oppressive noise regulations which curtail people’s enjoyment of their land.  Section 180-58(DD) states for swimming pools that “human voices shall not be objectionable to the occupants of any neighboring property.”  So, kids having fun in a pool and making noise in the summer would be in violation of the zoning if a disgruntled neighbor found it objectionable. This zoning restriction is illegal because it gives your neighbor control over your land. Is this what we want for our Town — zoning that pits neighbor against neighbor? 

* The proposed zoning law prohibits commercial lawn mowers from mowing residents’ lawns before noon on Sundays.  (Section 180-49(B)(8)).  However, residents are allowed to mow their own lawns before noon; they just can’t use a commercial landscaper. Why does the Town Board care when landscapers mow peoples’ lawns? 

* The proposed zoning law prohibits contractors from doing any work before noon on Sundays.  (Section 180-49(C)(3)). This hurts the tradesmen in our town who need to work in the summer and on weekends to feed their families. Tradesmen have stated that they will increase job costs to homeowners if they can’t work on weekends to complete a job. Why does the Town Board choose to punish local tradesmen who are a vital part of our community?  

* The proposed zoning law wants to stop contractor noise on Sunday mornings, but, comically, it allows personal firing ranges to create noise on Sunday mornings without any limitations (Section 180-49(B)(16)).

* The proposed zoning law permits Zero Lot Lines and adds “Townhouses” (defined as three or more attached units) as permitted uses (with Special Use Permit) in Hamlet and RL-3 Zones. Not only will this intensify the population in those areas, it ignores a 2017 source water survey which concludes that hamlet water supplies are already strained. Dense townhouse developments will further strain the quantity and diminish the quality of the water supply in those areas. The hamlet and rural zones represent our history and our rural character. Why would we alter the character and landscape of our historic countryside by allowing this type of development?

* The proposed zoning law severely restricts residents’ rights to rent their homes for short stays on Airbnb and similar websites to earn extra income to pay for taxes, school tuition, home repairs, and making ends meet. The proposed law now contains twelve pages of burdensome regulations targeted at stopping short-term home rentals. Meanwhile NYS is looking at ways to welcome short-term rentals, and has determined putting sales tax on them will bring in over $100 million in revenue for the state, of which Chatham would get its cut. Why are they restricting something that our NYS Governor wants to support?

* The Town Board claims limiting short term rentals (there are less than twenty in Chatham) will somehow increase the inventory of affordable year-round rental units. Yet under the revised law, citizens who rent out their homes in the traditional way will be liable for fines and possible jail time for loud noises created by their tenants, even though the homeowner had nothing to do with making the noise. (Section 180-49(E)).  Why would we discourage landlords from renting the young families who would otherwise remain or choose to live in Chatham, and who keep Chatham diverse and vital?

* * *

The Town Board spent almost four years creating this onerous zoning law and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lawyers and consultants to help prepare the law. To be clear: the Town Board used our money to develop and promote a restrictive law that takes away our property rights.  

It’s vitally important that residents send a message to the Town Board that we don’t want their overbearing zoning law. We must stand together to protect our Town, our property rights and our rural way of life. We need to vote on November 5 for new leadership that will listen to residents and adopt zoning that is reasonable, not unduly restrictive.

Why have the Chatham Town Board and Supervisor dismissed us?

By Jeanne Veillette Bowerman

This past April 5th, my father, Paul T. Veillette, passed away. I mention this not for sympathy, but because he was a powerful force on the importance of both common-sense zoning, and learning and respecting the history of our towns, and was also a long-time columnist for The Chatham Courier. In fact, he and my mother, Frances, were part of the original group of Chatham citizens who expressed the need for some form of reasonable land-use zoning back in the late 60s and early 70s. Another powerhouse was Judy Grunberg, a dear friend to our family and this entire town. She was like a sister to my mother. Judy also recently passed. It’s been a heartbreaking year for our little town.

On many sun-filled days in my childhood, I watched Judy and Paul Grunberg with my parents, huddled around a picnic table, passionately discussing local politics. How I wish I could ask my father for advice on the predicament Chatham is in today.

Before my father and Judy left this Earth, I promised them both that I would do everything in my power to stop this current Town Board from overreaching and forcing zoning onto us more fitting for Westchester than for our rural, farming community. I take that promise seriously.

For all who knew Dad and Judy, you know they were reasonable, intelligent, well-respected, generous, selfless, and unshakable. Those are qualities every public servant should have. How I wish those adjectives described our current Town Board.

At one Public Hearing last May, after months of attending Town Board meetings and pleading for changes to these proposed zoning laws, Judy stood strong and asked the Board, “I just want to know one thing. Are you listening to us?”

Now months later, it is crystal clear they were not.

In an effort to combat the lack of communication by the Town Board, many citizens now attend public meetings, and I personally film them via Facebook Live and actively post on social media. Something the Town Board could easily do themselves. But instead, they constantly direct people to the terribly inadequate Town website. I create websites as part of my job, and this is the worst site I have ever tried to navigate. Agendas are frequently not posted until an hour before the meeting starts, if at all. The minutes are absent from many meetings. Note: This is not the fault of the Town Clerk. Councilman Michael Richardson removed the website duties from her one night, in a fit, publicly humiliating the Clerk, who dutifully and respectfully serves our town. I’ve never witnessed such a disheartening public display of control and disrespect.

This “transparency” they speak of is lacking. Why aren’t they using the communication tools of the 21st century?

What’s most disturbing is the Town Board’s dismissal of the citizens. They are in bizarre denial that our voices matter. As if it never occurred to them that the almost 300 outraged people who showed up to the July 8th Tri-Village Firehouse zoning meeting, which is a record number by the way, are actual human beings with cares, jobs, financial worries, and a desire to have rights as property owners. We voted them in. Why wouldn’t we want to feel heard?

We long ago tired of Maria Lull and other Town Board members lamenting, “Where were you before? Why haven’t you joined committees?” Is there an expiration date on when a citizen can get involved? Are we supposed to come out of the womb and head straight to the Town Hall?

Yet this Town Board consistently slaps the citizens’ hands for not being involved sooner. Maybe it’s just us, but wouldn’t the more appropriate response be, “Welcome to the table! Thank you for wanting to participate. How can we work together to improve our zoning and town?”

After witnessing our outrage and submission of hundreds of zoning questions, Councilman Richardson finally declared a change of heart. He would no longer support the Board’s strategy of passing the law now and amending later. They decided to conduct Q&As with the citizens, with Councilman John Wapner promising these meetings would continue “until no more questions are asked or no one shows up.”

Bravo! The citizens showed up for every Q&A. We came with new questions each time, only able to ask a handful at a single session, with many more questions patiently waiting for the next Q&A. The Board identified over 90 issues as needing to be addressed. Over 90! Yet they were ready to pass this deficient law on June 20th.

The Q&As were productive, polite, and I’d even go as far as to say, they were fun. We enthusiastically worked together with the Town Board with great results.

Until the Q&As abruptly stopped.

What happened to Councilmen Richardson’s and Wapner’s promises? Why didn’t our Town Supervisor Maria Lull insist the Board keep their word? We were yet again dismissed.

And now, the Board has violated our trust once more. Just as they posted the “cleaned-up” red-lined version of the proposed zoning law on the town site, they simultaneously filed paperwork with the County Planning Board to review the proposed zoning laws, as is, which is a major step needed toward voting these laws in. The filing occurred on September 30th, yet the date Town Supervisor Maria Lull put on the signed document was October 2nd. How could that not make us suspicious of wrongdoing?

Most importantly, in taking this action, they violated Open Meeting Law. They are required by law to discuss issues like this in a public meeting. The potential of submitting the zoning law to the county was never put on any agenda, never listed in minutes, and not in the filming I do of every Board meeting. Therefore, this decision, and signing of the paperwork by our Town Supervisor Maria Lull, was done behind closed doors.

Again, that is a violation of Open Meeting Law.

If this was on the up-and-up, why was there zero mention of the intent to file, and also no mention of the completion of filing? They should have at least informed us at the October 3rd Board meeting.

Let’s make this clear, this was not an act of incompetence. This was a deliberate act of deception. Either the Town Board purposely acted in unison to do this, or Maria Lull acted on her own. Either way, it is the most disrespectful action this Board has taken to date. Just when you think they couldn’t hit a new low, they do.

I still hear and see Judy standing strong, asking, “Are you listening to us?” I am so deeply sorry, my dear Judy, they still are not.

Instead of listening, they immediately point fingers of blame at anyone who disagrees with them. My father told me, when you point one finger, four fingers are pointing back at you. The Board would be wise to remember that.

Dear Town Board, the blame for this zoning mess and divide in our community rests squarely on your shoulders. You choose to disrespect us instead of work with us. You could have kept doing Q&As. But instead, you chose to stop, distract, and do back-room meetings.

They further insulted us by not posting the County submission document under “Zoning,” instead burying it under “Government,” then under “Comprehensive Plan,” then further down at the bottom of the page. We only found it by accident.

I don’t care how many Letters to the Editor they and their friends write or how many back-patting mailers they send out, claiming “Truth Matters.” They have repeatedly betrayed our trust. The truth is, they will do it again. The first time you’re a victim; the second, a volunteer. I will not volunteer to support another four years of this disrespect.

My father and Judy may not walk among us today, but they will forever be a part of the heartbeat of our community. In fact, Judy told me many times that for the first time in her life, she would not be voting Democrat. How I wish she and my father had gotten the chance to vote on November 5th. How I wish they were still here to call out the Town Board for their gross lack of effective communication and their utter disregard for their citizens and Open Meeting Law.

They may not be here, but I am. I will not stop speaking up until we have new leadership who show Chatham citizens the respect we deserve. That leadership is Donal Collins, Vance Pitkin, and Abi Mesick.

Help Wanted: Town board members who represent the people they serve…

By Lisa Light

I can’t help but wonder why current leadership all over the world and even in small towns, seems to be polarizing its communities. I have never paid much attention to politics. I never had to…until now. To me, it seemed that things rarely change much regardless of who was in office locally or nationally. The changes that did occur, happened gradually and/or rarely affected me in small town America.

My bubble burst, however, when I heard about the drastic zoning laws that the Chatham Town Board was proposing this summer. I was forced to pull my head out of the sand and pay attention to what they were planning for our historically, live-and-let-live little town. It was jarring to discover that the future of our town is completely in the hands of 5 people – FIVE individuals have the power to significantly change the place where I have lived most of my life and where I have raised my family. How can that be? Shouldn’t we have more of a say and be able to vote when the board is proposing 226 pages of new laws?! The system hardly seems democratic or American! I guess it can, and has worked in the past, but the current Chatham Town Board is a far cry from being a fair representation of the Chatham community. In essence, it has become a bit like a dictatorship, because they are a small group that possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations.

A town board should be representative of its constituents. That is the only way a board can successfully govern a community fairly and democratically.

The current Chatham Town Board is 100% white, college educated and financially stable. Three are retired, only one is a woman and none of them were born or raised in Chatham or Columbia County. I do not know their political parties, however, it is truly NOT about what party the candidates belong to in local government, but where they fall on the issues that are important to their community. It is about balancing viewpoints and understanding the people you are serving.

We need to balance the board by voting in 3 new candidates who truly know what it is like to grow up, make a living and raise a family in Chatham today.

Donal Collins was raised on River Road in Chatham. He was closer to my brother’s age and played on his soccer team. I know my brother, always thought highly of him on and off the field. His parents were both teachers and farmers. His Mom, Pat Collins, worked for years at and helped make The Berry Farm what we know today. Donal is among the many Chatham High graduates who go off to see a bit of the world, earn a college degree and then realize that

Chatham is a great place to live. Donal is an interesting candidate because he has a mechanical engineering degree from Tulane University, he is a local farmer, and he works for a small business (Nancy Scans) in Chatham. Donal is a listener and a thinker and when he speaks he says very intelligent, well-thought out, practical ideas and people listen. I believe he will give his heart and soul to our town and he will lead with careful consideration of everyone’s needs and concerns. I am confident that he would make an excellent Town Supervisor.

Abi Mesick grew up in Austerlitz and went to Taconic Hills School. Her Dad, Dr. Barr Davis was a long time Chatham medical practitioner and our family doctor. Her Mom was his nurse, served for years as Austerlitz Town Justice, and together they raised 5 children. Although I went to a different school, I knew who Abi was. She made an impression because she was a quiet, petite, pretty tomboy who wore overalls, drove a pickup truck and could do jobs most girls didn’t attempt to do like climb and cut down trees! One day when I was 16 and a new driver, Abi came to my rescue. The hood of my car flew up and got stuck on my windshield. I was a pathetic, teenage girl that had no idea what to do. She pulled up behind me in her pickup truck, jumped out, grabbed a crowbar out of the back, marched straight to my car, unstuck the hood from my windshield, and then turned and left before I could say thank you. That is Abi. Strong, capable, ready to help and not looking for kudos or anything in return. She too left the area for New York City to study at Columbia University and she too returned to farm, start a business and raise a family in Chatham. She has experience in zoning as she assisted the Town of Austerlitz in passing their first zoning laws. She has demonstrated over the past several months that she will not take shortcuts when it comes to governing and leading our community into the future. She carefully read the proposed zoning and respectfully pointed out areas that needed revision and offered to help when she could. I am confident that Abi Mesick would do an excellent job representing women, children, farmers and business owners on the Chatham Town Board if she is elected.

I first met Vance Pitkin when I was planning the Millennial Celebration, Last Nite First Day, in Chatham in 1999. He was a great support in planning the celebration. He suggested and offered to make a beautiful, metal arch that we could erect in the Village green for revelers to walk through at the stroke of midnight as a symbol of walking from one century to the next. I have since enlisted him to refinish family heirlooms in his antique restoration shop and I have found that he runs his business with precision and integrity. He too is a farmer and lover of animals and the land as well, and would better represent the Chatham working community.

A town board should solicit community input, collaboration and communicate clearly, openly and thoroughly with its constituents especially when they want to make changes to the law. This results in buy-in from the community, ensures that the citizens are aware of the new laws, understand them and will comply. When board members want to change or amend laws, especially risky laws that could be detrimental to the future economy of the community, they need to remember that they are not expert policy and law makers. They were elected to serve their community. They need to thoroughly research, get advice from several experts (not just the ones they pay) and ask their constituents for input. There are several special interest groups in Columbia County who know what their members experience, need and want such as the Columbia County Economic Development Corp, The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, The Columbia County Board of Realtors, Columbia County Tourism Bureau, and the Chatham Agricultural Partnership.

I encourage Chatham citizens to vote for a board that better represents us on Nov. 5.

Your Local Vote Matters Most

Letter to the Editor:

Your vote in the upcoming election on November 5th  is of great importance.  One problem in the United States is that voters tend to focus on voting during presidential election years and pay less heed to local elections.  Elections at the local level are crucial and provide you with a chance to put individuals into office who will determine how your community will function and how your local needs will be met. 

Elected candidates will set and enforce local laws that have a great impact on your well- being.   In addition, local towns create budgets that affect how much money will be spent in maintaining roads, what programs your parks will offer and to whom and at what cost, funding for fire departments, providing police patrols, supporting agricultural concerns, and environmental issues.

In order to serve the needs of the community, the people must be listened to in a respectful and caring manner.  Communication, to be effective, has to be a process of listening, reflecting, and responding but then being willing to hear and respond to feedback.  All manner of business conducted at town meetings needs to be provided to all the constituents by many means.  Not all residents in Columbia County have internet or even access to the internet. 

In this upcoming election I urge you first of all to VOTE, second not to confuse national politics with the local issues that are impacting you first hand, and most importantly to vote for a team who will represent you by listening to your concerns, researching the issues and then acting in the best interest of the town at large and not a select few.  The team who will truly represent you in the Town of Chatham are Donal Collins for Supervisor, Abi Mesick for Town Board and Vance Pitkin for Town Board. Your vote counts!

Julia Veronezi

Town of Chatham

Response to Board’s Continued Lack of Communication by Ted Miner

The following was the statement, in full, by Ted Miner to the Chatham Town Board at the October 10, 2019 Board meeting, after learning of their violation of Open Meeting Law.


Bottom Feeding, Scum Sucking, Reprobates. The first words that came to mind as I digested “the Zoning Proposal forwarded to Columbia County for necessary review“.

Then I spent time reviewing my thoughts, conferring with those I respect, and remembering past associations.

I had sat every minute of the Q&A’s, as slowly many of my and others’ concerns were raised and dealt. I am today left with two “new” questions and one dramatic clarification. I understand others’ are left alike. I did not follow councilman Balcome’s advice “to send them on in”, as I had tried at the Tri-Village meeting and felt shorted. Besides, I do much better face to face where a dialog may take place.

Promised twice publicly, “The Q&A’s will end when the public stops coming/the questions are not new.”, I remained sure all would be addressed before the county submission. Previously scheduled to Oct. 8th, then to the 7th, finally to the 14th, (celebrated news to me at each designation), I was satisfied my concern was respected. Though on later thought, the dates’ movement may suggest other challenges when weighing the “ten days county acceptance window“.

The previous attempt to ratify the proposal included a board agenda identifying intent. Then the town board and planner Nan’s open in depth review and address of the county submission documents. Finally a public declaration of intent to file.

Though I had sat every minute of the town board meetings since June 21st I did not hear or see any intent to do the same. Not a sentence, not a word. Yet, it is done. Filed “received” Sept. 30th by Nan the planner, application signed Oct. 2nd by Maria Lull.

This came to my attention by another’s extreme diligence, I might say, “Luck”. The information is located under the website sidebar’s “Government” tab. Further, to the “Comprehensive Plan” tab. Finally located out of order, at the bottom of dated information. I, of course, had kept one eye on the dedicated “Zoning” information block. Obviously a mistake. This alone raised an eyebrow until I remembered the town board, while attempting communication solutions, had fallen well short of this fairly simple task.

Note; IT IS ALWAYS MANAGEMENT’S FAULT!

I do not condone, “passage to then fix”. I do not accept, “time investment warrants passage”, nor, “always done this way”. I wonder, “I don’t know, somebody thought this was important”. More than once I heard, “should have been sent back to the Zoning Board, then addressed by a ZIC, finally to come to us, the town board”. I do not give out participation medals. I respect dedication and empathy.

That said, the foundational final insult is the undocumented action of the county submission. I accept no laws have been broken. I accept no collusion occurred. I accept the timing of the action was important to achieve the guaranteed decision process.

I accept the supervisor made the sole decision. signed her name, and had it filed by Nan the planner.

A concerted, deceitful action, meant to circumvent any opposition. Think June 20th.

I do not accept the insult of indifference to me or others. The “need to know” surely was then communicated to the board, yet there was no, (obviously warranted), zoning update at the Oct. 3rd board meeting. I and maybe all, of our town‘s unwashed, unimportant, certainly unaccountable, were not in the rarified circle. The disrespect to our highest concern, “Communication”, is unparalleled in my 37 year history of various boards’ participation and attendance. In my 45 year professional career, I have fired for far less. Even before I was held to a higher accountability.

“Openness” has become laughable.

Machiavelli suggested “The ruler governs only with the permission of the governed”.

Maria Lull, you do not have my permission.

The balance of the board…. Please remember you are my neighbors.

Ted Miner


At the end of his statement, Ted stood up, took off his “Truth Matters” button, handed it back to Maria Lull, and stated that he still stands by his words from weeks earlier that this group is not racist, but instead they are indeed elitist.