Letter to the Business Owners of Chatham

Dear Chatham business owner,

I am writing you as a fellow Chatham business owner. I want to call your attention to the new town zoning proposal that is headed rapidly to a vote by the town board. I am very concerned the zoning regulations currently proposed will have a negative and detrimental impact on area businesses. 

Whether or not you live in Chatham, as a business owner in the town or village, your livelihood will be affected by these regulations. Furthermore, the businesses in Chatham hire the residents of Chatham – and availability of local jobs should be a top concern for the town board. 

If you haven’t yet had a chance to read the zoning proposal, here are just a few highlights that are particularly important for business owners to understand:

1.     Short Term Rentals The proposed regulations surrounding short-term rentals (such as AirBnB, VRBO, or a house-swap) will dramatically impact and choke off tourism and shopping in the town and village. Anything that drives down rentals of otherwise unoccupied homes will have a ripple impact through many businesses such as retail stores, restaurants, landscapers, cleaning services.  (§180-41, p150)

2.     Wedding Receptions, Parties and Special Events are not permitted in residential areas (unless part of a farm operation). They are permitted in business and industrial zones without a special use permit. (table, p66) This might impact a business that caters to home weddings and parties. Photographers may have less events to photograph. Caterers, Florists, DJ’s, Musicians, cake bakers etc. will also all feel the reduction. 

3.     Home-based businesses The section on home occupations will take control of the home-based businesses in the area. The proposed zoning has language that breaks down home occupations into levels. Depending on the level you fall into you can find yourself limited in the number of vehicles, employees or contractors you can have. (§180-41, p150)

4.     Auto repair businesses The proposed zoning law has a number of regulations surrounding auto repair businesses. They are prohibited in most residential areas and permitted in business and industrial zones under certain conditions. Pages (§180-58, Section B p172-173) have a lengthy list of regulations surrounding auto repair and sales. Any of the automotive businesses in the town would do well to read these sections closely.

5.     Construction work, building, excavating etc. may quickly run afoul of the noise ordinance if it falls outside the permitted timeframes (p166.)

6.     Restaurants must screen front facing parking lots (p179). This regulation was questioned in a recent board meeting and the owners were assured that their establishment parking was “grandfathered”. However the language is absent from the proposed zoning laws. It’s also unclear what would happen if a restaurant was sold or transferred to new ownership. Parking is vital to restaurants! 

It is a constant struggle to keep a business open– much less thriving– in Chatham. Zoning laws that intrude unnecessarily upon business owners’ ability to operate profitably will ultimately devastate the retail and commercial opportunities in Chatham. Zoning must support the businesses that are here to serve the town, not make it harder to survive. 

I, frankly, am worried that these changes will be the difference between being able to keep my shop open for our 6th year…. or not. We are dependent upon tourists, renters, and special events in addition to full-time citizens to round out our monthly numbers.

If you want to share how the proposed zoning will likely impact your business, please send your story to chathamnycitizens@gmail.com for publication on the Chatham United “Letters to the Community” page.  

You can learn more at www.chathamunited.org. You can pick up buttons to show solidarity with concerned locals at 1811 Antiques or Bimi’s Cheese Shop on Main Street.

Finally, please join the conversation and make your concerns known! Talk about these issues to your neighbors and fellow business owners. Most importantly, come to the upcoming town meetings. The next Town Board special meeting on this issue is:

Monday, July 8th at 6:00PM


111 CR 13, Old Chatham, NY

The format of this meeting is quite strict: questions regarding zoning must be written one question per card on cards distributed at the door. These cards will be submitted to the moderators who will select which questions will be answered. Please don’t be discouraged by this! The more businesses that show up and participate will help us all!

Thanks for your thoughtful consideration,

Ellen Waggett, Bimi’s Cheese Shop

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