Has the Public Been Quiet About Objections All Along? No, They Have Not.

On the June 20, 2019 Town Board meeting, the board scolded to the audience for not getting involved earlier. People have indeed been involved. Please read the August 3, 2018 minutes from a Public Hearing, where many people used the same terminology we are using today regarding these proposed laws as restrictive, overbearing, and a violation of property owners’ rights. 

Please read this post with a brief history of where and how these zoning laws came about and the abuse of power by Maria Lull.

At the beginning of the meeting Nan Stolzenberg gives comments on the process of drafting these laws.

At this meeting in August, 2018, people spoke of the need for the Board to provide the public with a full red-line version, comparing the current zoning to the new proposed zoning. Note: When they post red-line versions on the Town site, they are ONLY posting comparisons from the current draft to the last draft, which is very misleading.

That was one year ago, and the Town has yet to provide the public with a full, accurate comparison from the current laws to the proposed laws.

When the public cries out that there is no transparency, this is an example of why.

Here are two detailed examples of the public comment’s, but please read the entire minutes, because it’s also important to read comments from those who support these changes. You’ll find several speakers from Thomas Road in the minutes.

Page 19, Lawyer Mitchell Khosrova stated the following:

I come here, really, with what I hope is more of an objective look. Those that know me, know I spent 16 years as a deputy chair of the ZBA. I spent two and a half years on the ZIC that was mentioned earlier. This process, these 182 pages that are on the website — which is a work in process for, I think it’s close to six years in happening.

I know for a fact that the council members care what’s going on in this community; and as stated earlier by the supervisor, want to get input; and there’s always been a lot of talk since the change in the last administration about transparency and public input. This is a real chance to do that. I have worked with both your attorney and your consultant in the past and currently I have a lot of respect for what was done here and for what you are trying to do; and I recognize the largess of it makes it very, very difficult.

I guess the long and the short — and I will go through some specific examples but not many. I think that more time is needed. I think that this was posted, literally, on July 20th. I, certainly, have not had an opportunity to go through it more than a few pages; and I looked and highlighted some of the things that I thought might be important. I know at the last meeting, Dr. Wapner — he and I have, sometimes, disagreed in the past — but he had tried to put off a Public Hearing. I do think that more time is necessary.

Also, if there are changes, which I hope there will be, based on the input that you are receiving, that there be another public notice and a public hearing after those changes. This document did not highlight the changes from the current law. It makes it very, very difficult to focus on what needs to be focused on. You literally have to read 182 pages. And many times there would be some kind of a table or there’s a red line. This board has decided not to do that; and it really is unfair to the public, especially in a 12-day period, to give you final comments. I know I cannot do that. I am unable to do that.

(APPLAUSE.)

And I don’t know — it could very well be the Town will, this time, take up Dr. Wapner’s motion from last month; and say, yeah, let’s put this out 60 days; or let’s rewrite base on comments and then put that out for 60 days. I hope that you will do that.

I just want to point out, I guess, there are some things, like inconsistencies. In one place, you say that a residential pond needs a site plan review. In another place, it says no permit is required. Again, I know because it was a rush and largess of it, things like that have to be knocked out.

This is a legal document. You are going to go to Court — if you try to enforce that, you are going to lose that. There’s several things that I think that may not really have, or at least explain proper rationale to it. The three-car garage limit. I think that — as a practical matter, it doesn’t really make sense to me. I have two children. If they were of age to drive, that means we needed four cars. It’s just where we live. I also have a lawn mower, I have a motorcycle. And to say and to limit on any piece of property, without mention of size or anything else — what Nan referred to is you wanted to standardize things — really doesn’t make sense, and there’s no rationale for that prohibition. If someone has a larger piece of property, and wants a bigger garage, why not? It’s not going to hurt anybody.

(APPLAUSE.)

I also think that some people may think and look at this and read this in saying — you know, there are a lot of working class people in this community. I know if you try to get a contractor, repair person, plumber, electrician — it’s really hard out here. And it’s one of the businesses that we need and need to promote because everybody needs those type of things.

Specifically, contractors have need for garages and places to store things. And you are — you know, looking at those type of people, and right away, you are penalizing them for their business. And that goes into the —

(APPLAUSE.)

I love clapping, but hold on a second. It goes into — also the accessory use limit that you have imposed. You have based it on the square footage of the house. To me, that easily could be deemed illegious because if you can afford a 10,000 square foot house, you are going to be allowed to have more accessory uses; and I just don’t see the rationale. If you have a large piece of property, and no one is going to see it, what difference if someone has a shed, a pool, a large garage, or any other type of — a swing set, all of those things — anything that would be considered a structure is limited now as an accessory use. I just don’t see the rationale in that. I don’t really think that that was properly thought through. And to say one-size-fits-all is not what zoning is supposed to do. That’s why you have special permits.

SEQR is exactly the opposite. SEQR specifically comes into existence so you take, fact by fact, specific spaces, and say what is proper for that particular application. You are, kind of, going through that and negating any of that need by saying you want to standardize something.

I just have two more little examples.

The 100-foot buffer zone — you know, whether it’s in a hamlet that could be near a creek or a stream — by the way, I don’t think there’s a definition of a stream. If someone wants to, simply, put a swing set, and they live in a hamlet, it makes it impossible to do. Why is that not allowed? Again, I am not sure that was thought through.

Your mowing and construction restrictions, I think also — I mean, you have it Saturday but not Sunday, you have it after five. I mean, people like me work all day. I get home and I mow. And it’s never between 9 and 5; and I usually will do it on weekends. And I don’t have any neighbors in earshot.

Why can’t I do it at 8 in the morning? Why can’t I do it after 5 o’clock at night? Especially when it’s light until 9 o’clock. I think that those were rather quick to go through. I won’t even go into it because I know other speakers will talk about your town roads — you don’t differentiate between gravel or paved.

The short-term leasing is also a large problem. You don’t define media. For me — and I have worked on other municipality’s Airbnb issue. You know, if someone wants to rent a room in their home where they live, you don’t have the transient issues about all-night parties, about littering, about not caring, and all those other issues. I don’t see why you would make someone, who is trying to make a few extra bucks to have a guest in their home — have to go through a whole obstacle course in order to do it. And you don’t differentiate between someone who wants to — and I thought Karen was very articulate in the things that she said earlier about the Airbnb. I think that that’s a really
difficult issue. I know Hudson just passed it, and they thought it through, I think, a little bit more than what this definition does and what you allow.

So, to sum up, I really think that it took a lot of time to do this. I think a lot more review and input is necessary. I think that if you make changes, we need more time to look at those challenges. If this is passed the way it is, you will lose lawsuits; and I know the town doesn’t want to do that, they don’t want to waste their money.

Thank you again for your effort and your time for allowing me to speak.

Page 31, Wendy Carroll stated the following:

My name is Wendy P. Carroll, and I live in the village. I am here to express my concern that although much of the proposed town code is valid and fulfills the Comprehensive Plan’s intent, there are proposed prohibited uses on all town roads that are not consistent with the intent of the plan.

The Zoning Implementation Committee worked long and hard to establish guidelines consistent with the plan’s intent. Such prohibited uses on all town roads were never included in any of the draft use tables.

The Town Board added these prohibited uses at the final stages, in an effort to compromise with powers that fought loudly and insistently to protect their dirt roads with claims that such uses were intense and would destroy the rural character of their town.

I strongly believe that horse-related activities with similar impacts can coexist with the proposed prohibited uses while maintaining our rural character.

Just out of curiosity, to see the impact, I made this map, and all the red zones on our town are the prohibited use areas. These are our town roads. Roughly, I will
show you guys —

SUPERVISOR LULL: Please show it to the Town Board.

MS. CARROLL: Here we go. There’s roughly 1,786 parcels, almost 88 percent of the town will be impacted by these over-restricted regulations. The plan clearly states recommendations to preserve the rural character of our town, while balancing growth and protecting our quality of life.

Nowhere in the plan are there any recommendations to prohibit uses such as day camps, health clubs, membership clubs, outdoor commercial recreation, facilities, etcetera, on any town roads.

The Comprehensive Plan does include Goals, such as places for our children to engage in our natural environment, homes for our elders, in close proximity to their families and friends, and states: Recreational facilities compliment our rural character. The plan does not prohibit such uses. The plan encourages uses such as that.

I also find it extremely challenging to understand the difference between the town’s paved road and a county’s paved road, other than the obvious distinction of ownership — distinction without a difference.

Why will someone on a county paved road be allowed a use, when someone three houses away on an adjacent paved town road, will not be allowed the same opportunity? Each one of these roads are different. Each site is different. And rather than blanket regulations, I think we should consider each site.

Explicit recommendations to protect and to preserve the rural character of the town are included in the infrastructure section of the plan. The list is long, and due to time constraints, I will mention a few. None of them include proposed prohibited uses.

Roads remain rural and design of maintenance, institute rural road standards that will maintain rural character. Develop and use contact sensitive design standards for new roads built in Chatham which are recognized nationally for their flexibility and ability to preserve rural character.

When I questioned the reason behind the overly-restricted prohibited uses, I was told, as far as the Town Board goes, the choice became, limit the high impact uses or prohibit them all together; thus, the compromise. Surely, you would not want to see those uses eliminated all together. No, I would say that the uses should be based on a case by case basis according to each use and each site.

I was told the number one response from the people was protect road character, and close behind, was protect open space — yes. But the prohibited uses as proposed would not, with rural road standard and adequate review processes, destroy our open space and rural character.

In addition, I was told, as one of the members of the steering committee that completed the plan — I’ll be finished in just a minute — I can assure you, we were told, more than once by committee members living on dirt roads, that they would lay down in front of the road paver before they let their road become blacktopped — they were not kidding.

Is this the real impetus for such heavy-handed prohibitive regulations? A threat. And why, at the last minute, were the prohibited uses included at all? The proposed zoning can and should move forward without such misguided and special interests influencing prohibited uses on all town roads.

To justify these restrictions as maintaining the rural character is nothing less than unconscionable and an obvious attempt to placate certain members of the community at the expense of the entire town — and most definitely, not in compliance with the intent of the Comprehensive Plan. Thank you very much.
(APPLAUSE.)
SUPERVISOR LULL: Wendy, can you enter that?
MS. CARROLL: I can enter it, a longer version with all the recommendations from the town about the rural road standards.

NOTE FROM CHATHAM UNITED: Since Wendy submitted her chart to the Town Board, you can email the Town Clerk to get a copy of that and her further recommendations.

Please read the entire Public Hearing minutes here.

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