Summary of Zoning Laws

With an over 200-page draft of the proposed zoning laws, it’s not easy for anyone to find the time to read them thoroughly. In an effort to give Chatham citizens a way to more easily digest the changes, people are volunteering to read portions and post summaries here.

If you read the marked draft, please note the red marking is only showing the difference between the January 2019 version of the draft and the current draft. This is NOT the difference between the actual existing zoning laws and this new proposed law. There is a lot that has changed. For example, here’s a marked draft of the current law to the August, 2018 draft.

Please note, the Town of Chatham zoning laws are being voted on quickly. The Town laws do not impact the Village, but the villagers do pay Town and Village taxes and have a vote in elections.

The Village of Chatham will also be updating their zoning laws in the coming months, so please pay attention to those changes and work together with the Village Board in the early stages. If you’re unclear as to where the boundaries are, here’s a Village map.

Regardless of whether you live in the village or in the broader town, the decisions of your Town Supervisor and Councilmen impact your lives.

CRITICAL: The laws are written in a very ambiguous fashion. “Grandfathering” applies only in limited ways. Once these new laws take effect, even if you followed the old zoning law rules, the new ones trump them going forward. This will affect families who have lived here for generations, second homeowners, business people, landlords, tourists… everyone! If the board passes these laws and you violate them, you’ll be fined. Not a cheap fine. And you could spend up to 6 months in jail, though the town lawyer claims that is rarely used. But it’s still in there. It’s an option.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT POINT:

A lot of these laws are written in an ambiguous way and not with a mindful, purposeful intent to serve a rural community. They are written as if we live in Westchester or some other suburb or city.

They are also far too intrusive and overreaching. The explanation we’ve received from the board is that some of the proposed laws comply with existing NYS law.

Fine. But there’s one big problem with that… it is not only redundant to place them in our code, but also laws CHANGE!

The things that are in the code that are “current NYS law” shouldn’t even be in there precisely BECAUSE they are already current law. There’s no need to call them out.

So, if NYS changes the law, these zoning laws are jacked.

ALSO… if something is not listed as “EXEMPT,” it is automatically illegal. Even something that hasn’t been invented or thought up yet.

Some History:

These new, proposed zoning laws are based off of the old Comprehensive Plan that was adopted in 2007, which is outdated. We’ve been told that the board must work off that old plan. One board member, Councilman Balcolm, even suggested we give the new laws a chance for a couple of years, and then we can always go back and change the zoning laws again.

We all know how hard it is to undo something, especially with the red tape of government. And why should we be forced to live with unreasonable laws?

More importantly, what’s the rush? What harm will it do to slow down and do it right the first time?

A better approach would be to stop pushing these new zoning laws, go back and update the Comprehensive Plan, and then create common sense zoning laws based on a plan that represents the Chatham of today and the future.

As you read the summary below, imagine the impact the laws will have not only on you, but also on your neighbors. As you drive around the town in the coming days, look at trucks, RVs, signs, driveways, garbage cans, etc. that will all be in violation after this law has passed.

Now, remember why you purchased your home. Some of us have lived here for generations. Others are second homeowners. But chances are, you either chose to stay here or chose to buy here because you loved the rural aspects of our town. The freedom of choice. Country living.

We are united in our love for this town.

The fresh air of the country also brings the noise of chickens and dogs. The mowing of fields, and the local children practicing musical instruments in their home. Keep all of that in mind as you read the summaries.

Because we don’t want to only point out problems, but also offer solutions, we hope the board reads a detailed list of suggested changes given us by a concerned citizen who has read the proposed zoning changes multiple times.

We’ll start the summary with the ones that most impact our daily lives.

Let’s dive in!

Check back often, as we’ll be updating this page as we get through them...


“Like” our Chatham NY Citizens for Common Sense Zoning on Facebook to get up-to-date information and interact in the discussion with your friends and neighbors.



NOISE: §180-49:

All of section 180-49 Noise must be a concern to every citizen living in Chatham.  Whether you are a homeowner, renter, or contractor section 180-49 will dictate your activities. 

This section overreaches in the fact that it is controlling individual’s lives and livelihoods.   

Piano players, pet owners, snowmobilers, contractors and even your personal voices will be regulated under the proposed law.  In addition a section on sound reproduction devices including those in your vehicle that “annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities” is a violation.  Can someone please define “reasonable person” or “normal sensitivities”?

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 with a special use permit. (table, p66)

The entire section needs to be studied by every individual as there are so many intrusions into your personal life.  The restrictions  go beyond what should be included in a zoning law. There are civil laws on the books that apply to disturbing the peace if that is the concern of the town.

The violating noise must not exceed ambient noise by 10 decibels for a period of one hour. I’m not certain how we know if we’ve exceeded the limit unless we start carrying sound-measuring equipment on us.

For reference, this site gives information on decibel levels. 60dB is equivalent to conversation in a restaurant or background music at an office. 70dB equals the noise of a vacuum cleaner, and 80 dB occurs when you run your garbage disposal.

SOME, BUT NOT ALL, NOTABLE UNLAWFUL SOUNDS:

  1. use of any sound-reproduction device whether inside or outside a structure
  2. any impulsive noise which occurs repeatedly for one hour and exceeds 75 dBA
  3. “Yelling, shouting or hooting at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort and repose of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.”
  4. sounding of a horn or alarm for more than 5 minutes (let’s hope your date isn’t late)
  5. any other excessive or unreasonable noise which annoys someone (which is totally subjective and easily abused)
  6. any use of a musical instrument in or out of the house (let’s hope no one has a child who is learning the drums or trumpet)
  7. animal, bird or fowl, roaming free, on or off owner’s premise, disturbing neighbors for more than an hour. So, if your dog barks on your property or even gets loose and barks around town for more an hour, that’s a violation.  NOTE: Any noise that happens during an official hunt… you know, the kind that Maria Lull used to do in Old Chatham… that’s fine. Those dogs can bark as long as they want. (Page 166, section 9.)
  8. You cannot operate a recreational vehicle (all-terrain, dirt bike, go cart, snowmobile, or watercraft) at any time, at any speed or under any manner whatsoever that exceeds 80 dBA, at a distance of fifty feet. *Fifty feet from…. what? A person? A residence? A tree?

EXEMPT SOUNDS: There are some, but usually limited to certain hours, typically business hours, like construction, agriculture, etc.

But… you are not allowed to mow your lawn or use power tools at all before 9AM on a Sunday. Watch out, you early risers! Early mowing regulations might be appropriate in zoning for a village, but not for those in rural Chatham.

If you hire someone to mow your lawn, they cannot mow after 5pm.

Specific maximum noise level limitations (dBA) are established as follows at the property line:

  • Sunday through Thursday, 7am-9pm (day): 65 dBA
  • Sunday through Thursday, 9pm-7am: (night): 50 dBA
  • Friday and Saturday, 7am-9pm (day): 75 dBA
  • Friday and Saturday, 9pm-7am (night): 60 dBA

Can you all remember those? There will be a quiz at the end. It’s called the November election ballot.

Rent your property? You could be fined because of your tenants’ actions…

If you’re a landlord, you, too, need to be careful. If your tenant violates any of these noise restrictions, you are the one who is responsible. After you’re notified of a violation by your tenant, the only way you won’t be responsible is if you can prove you have started eviction proceedings. You might not want to rent to families with school-age kids who want to learn musical instruments, or someone who wants to run their air conditioner from 9pm to 7am. Just sayin’.

NOTE: The board claims one of their justifications on restricting short-term rental use is to provide more long-term housing. They’d be better off making it attractive for landlords to rent to families with children and/or pets.

§180-40. Garbage Trash Bins. 

“Garbage trash bins placed along a public road for pickup by a trash hauler shall be removed within 48 hours after pick up or be removed to a shielded area within the boundaries of the property.”

Weekenders will have to make a special trip up on Wednesday to take in your garbage cans, as County Waste collects on Monday. Or you’ll have to pay someone to do it… $$$.

And if you’re elderly, or live on a hill and dragging your garbage cans is a hardship, too bad. Pay up. That’ll be $300.


PARKING

Are you ready? This will impact every single person. Period. Exclamation point.

RESTAURANTS:

“Parking is not permitted in the front yard setback unless the parking area is adequately screened to mitigate negative visual impacts.”

This means restaurants with parking lots like East Chatham Food Company’s would be in violation, even though their parking lot has been like that forever. Luckily for ECFC, they’re just over the border into the Town of Canaan (there are odd boundaries in Columbia County that don’t match the town name, so be certain in what town your home’s zoning rules exist).

Again, we ask, why not just grandfather these businesses/buildings in? Baffling.

Almost every business-use states this: “Parking shall be located behind a principal building and shall be completely screened from view from the public road and from any other adjacent residential uses. ”

So much for the board’s claim they want to help promote businesses.

But wait… parking will impact homeowners, too. Ready?

UPDATE: When the Jackson’s ask about their parking at Jackson’s Old Chatham House, Councilmen Balcolm assured them their parking was fine. But… it was later brought up by a citizen that their parking would not be “fine” if they were to ever sell their restaurant, or close it for one year’s time and try to reopen it. The new owners would need to follow the new rules.

OFF-STREET PARKING:

“Required off-street parking areas for three or more automobiles shall have individual spaces marked and shall be so designed, maintained and regulated that no parking or maneuvering incidental to parking shall be on any public street, walk or alley, and so that any automobile may be parked and unparked without moving another.”

The above is on page 28, and appears to read that a residence will be required to have 3 off-street parking spaces. Please correct us if you find out otherwise, because this will impact many homes… and good luck to the realtors who have to inform owners who want to sell that they need to do these updates first.

HAVE A RECREATIONAL VEHICLE?

Good luck. “No parking of any recreational vehicle shall be allowed within any required front, side or rear yard setback.” (pg 201)

If you have a RV for more than 30 days but less than 6 months, you need a building permit.

HAVE A RENTAL PROPERTY?

“All multi-unit dwellings shall have no less than two parking spaces per dwelling unit. No front yard shall be used for open air parking or storage of any vehicle.” 


AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR:

“All automotive repair work shall be conducted in fully enclosed building.” 

“Where an automotive repair use adjoins a residential use, a landscape screen with a minimum height of ten (10) feet, shall be provided adjacent to the shared property line.”

The laws are written in such an ambiguous way that it’s hard to easily determine if this applies to weekend mechanics or not. From what we can tell, it applies to businesses. If it applied to residence, you wouldn’t be able to change your oil in your driveway anymore, or change a flat tire, unless you had a 10-foot “landscape screen.”

PLEASE NOT that if you have a garage and decide to “play it safe” and work on your car inside, you’ll need to pay very close attention to carbon monoxide poisoning if your garage is not properly ventilated. Please read this thoroughly to keep yourself safe!

We don’t have a lot of auto-repair shops in Chatham, but if you have ever gone to get your car fixed anywhere, you’ll see how restrictive these rules are:

  • Repair shops have to build screening for cars parked more than 72 hours.
  • They can’t idle a car for more than 15 minutes
  • Bay doors shall face the rear yard. 
  • Dumpster locations shall be screened from public view. 
  • There shall be no outside accumulation of parts, tires, spare vehicles, etc. 
  • If you sell cars, “the total area for the outdoor display of motor vehicles, mobile homes and/or boats, including the rows and/or spaces in between, shall not exceed 25% of the total lot. “

HEALTHCARE

Page 57 says Healthcare and/or dental offices are not permitted unless by permit by an industrial or business zone. What about mental health counselors who work from their homes?


MUSEUMS, TOURISM, LODGING:

Did you know the Old Chatham Shaker Museum wants to move into the vacant old furniture building at the end of Main Street? It’ll be amazing for our town!

But…

The restrictions on short-term rentals (STR) will definitely impact the town’s ability to accommodate tourists and your extended family.

There are more details of STR restrictions below, but in quick summary, you can’t rent out your home for more than 30 days a year unless you also live in that home, full time. Most people using Airbnb and VRBO do not want to stay in a house with the homeowners. They want a whole-house rental. Plus the younger generations prefer renting via Airbnb than staying in hotels. It’s the way of the future for travel.

Why Now?

Well, we’ll get to that in an upcoming post on the backstory of this STR mess, but another reason we’ve heard from the board is that “other towns are doing it.”

Other people jump off bridges, but should we do that, too?

The reality is, these “other towns,” like Lake George, already have multiple hotels for tourists. WE DO NOT! Just because a neighboring town is putting in restrictions, does NOT mean we need to jump on the bandwagon!

Take the PS21 for example, the majority of people buying tickets ask where they can stay… Hudson hotels are booked up far in advance, and people don’t want to have to drive long distances after a late-night performance.

Help our town businesses thrive by embracing and welcoming their customers! And also area extended families who want to visit need nearby places to stay.

Chatham has ALWAYS been rooted in entrepreneurs. Most locals have their own businesses, or second businesses to supplement their income. Rental income is a valuable option for us.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

Multiple times at the June 20th meeting, Town Supervisor Maria Lull stated these new laws would make the town friendly and encouraging to development.

There were audible gasps, as at sent up a red flag for a lot of people because Supervisor Lull is a realtor.

Then, we noticed that on June 3, 2019, what was supposed to be an Economic Stabilization Committee meeting turned into a Special Board Meeting on the spot.

“Richardson and Dunavin report that between the Sundog Solar ( Box Factory Property) and the Town Hall Properties, there is a possibility of up to 300 acres that could be developed.”

“Richardson reports that possible sights for “Pocket Neighborhoods” could be in areas adjacent to the existing water / sewer system, making expansion the most economical. Locations mentioned include Harmon Heights, River Street, Line Streets,Rte. 66, heading North our of the Village, as well as adjacent or partially in Crellin Park. Possibly totaling three to four pocket neighborhoods, with twelve to seventeen houses each.”

They are also exploring expanding the village water system and even discussed it expanding into Ghent. Ask anyone in the Village about their water bills… you might want to stay on top of this topic.

They also discussed alienating the parklands, meaning getting that designation removed so the land can be developed, including a portion of Crellin Park, to create these “pocket communities.”

What do you think is going on?

We can appreciate the town’s need to raise revenues, find affordable housing, etc, but alienating our parklands, taking a portion of Crellin Park away for this “experiment,” developing 300 acres on 295, and expanding an already failing water system outside of the Village is concerning.

Please read the full minutes to get a more detailed picture. This is only one meeting of the discussion, so not the full information, but certainly something to be aware of.

More importantly, if someone who runs our town is a realtor, the option to recuse themselves from these discussion and decision should be explored at public meetings so the town can understand the person’s motives and be comfortable with their involvement.

SHORT-TERM RENTALS (STR)

STR owners are your friends and neighbors, not the enemy!

The more concerning aspect of limiting STRs is the impact on those homeowners. It’s important not to assume second-homeowners are buying investment properties. There are many reasons someone would want to rent out their homes…

Some owners have inherited these homes, which have been in their families for generations, and they want to keep them, but cannot afford the taxes otherwise. Others have second homes here because they grew up here, and want to share this wonderful community with their children, but again, need a little extra income to afford the high taxes. To hear these families talk at the meetings, pleading with the board, would break your heart. Tears have flowed. We wish you all would come to the meetings to hear how these rules are dramatically impacting your friends and neighbors.

STRs are NOT Illegal in Current Zoning Laws:

The current use of homes as STRs is not illegal. An omission from the current (outdated) list of “permitted uses” does not make something illegal. STR homes are rental properties, which is a legal use of one’s property, and a property owner’s right. 

If the town’s lawyer is advising you that they are illegal, Chatham really needs a better lawyer.

STR Restrictions

Even if you don’t have or want to have a short-term rental (STR), you should read on to see the discriminating restriction of property owners’ rights. Taxpaying homeowners are not being treated equally.

Everyone, especially STR owners, want their neighbors to be happy, their homes to be safe, and their guests to be courteous. We don’t think many would object to having to have a permit and even a home inspection. Everyone wants peaceful, common sense, safe operations. But these restrictions are discriminatory and violate many rights of a homeowner.

There are some basic premises underlying the short-term zoning regulations.

The primary one is the fact that second homeowners are denied the property rights granted to “domiciles” homeowners, even though they pay the same taxes.  Second homeowners (Class 1, p.179) are allowed to rent for 30 days or less in a calendar year, while permanent residents (Class 2 & 3) can rent short-term every day, year-round either within their home, or on one extra home on their property. 

If it is to be a whole house rental, which is the preferred type of accommodation these days, you’d have to have an extra house on your property.

If someone, resident or not, bought purely for the sake of creating an investment property, they could rent year-round if that property were in a business or industrial zone.  An Inn would now only be allowed in a business or industrial zone, and we all know how appealing that would be for someone seeking a peaceful stay in the countryside.

Within these categories there are numerous restrictions (too many to mention so these are some highlights):

  • Within class 3 there is a limit of 10 guests (2 per room) whether you have 8 bedrooms or not.
  • And for all classes, there is a strict rule of “no weddings, reunions, parties or other group gatherings of any kind” (p.180).  So do your potential 10 guests have to be unknown to one another?  How many people are there in a ‘gathering’?

If you’re following the Chatham Community Facebook page the past few months, you might have seen this question:

This law prohibits growth of jobs in our town. For example, a STR owner can only employ one person. Most people have one person who cleans, one person who mows the lawn, and/or one person who maintains the pool.

Then all categories of rentals must have an inspection (p.183), pay for that inspection, pay a separate application fee (to be announced later when the public has no more hearings in which to object), keep complete records of all guests (names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates), and provide a local contact person available 24/7 to address any problems within 1 hour. 

The owner will not be called, but the owner must nevertheless remedy the situation within 1 hour or be in violation and be subject to a civil fine of $500 per day for starters–each day being a separate violation (p.186).   

On p. 206 the code adds that any violation of any provision of this zoning code carries a $200 a day civil penalty and potentially a criminal penalty of $350 a day and possible imprisonment for 6 months, for a 1st offense, the fines going up to $1000 a day. The town’s lawyer dismissed the prison time, saying this is very rarely enforced, yet they still insist on keeping that possibility in the written law.

All short-term renters will be subject to surveillance by the Host Compliance Co. which encourages anonymous complaints from owners, for which the taxpayers will pay $5,300 a year.

“Allow complainants to stay anonymous…”

That could be so easily abused by a disgruntled neighbor! Plus, anonymous reporting allows no due process for the STR homeowner.

Host Compliance monitors rental activity and occupancy tax activity. The town approved paying for BOTH of those services, yet a TOWN cannot tax short-term rentals. Only a city or county can collect tax on STRs. So, the Board is approving a $5300 tax-payer expense for a service they can only use 50% of.

The contract for Host Compliance also gives Host Compliance permission to get a warrant and search your house. Read the contract HERE.

And noise cannot emanate beyond the boundaries of the property, so if you’re in a hamlet, no children laughing outside, no calling them in for dinner.

The supposed purpose of all these rules is to foster neighborliness. But you can of course rent for 31 days or more and your renters can have as many guests as they want, have reunions, have ‘gatherings’, let the children play outside and the homeowner does not need a permit, an inspection, a contact person, records on their renters, and is subject to no surveillance. 

Does all this seem a little overbearing and like they aren’t treating homeowners equally? It does to us.

So much for wanting to embrace our community’s history and promote area businesses.

If you aren’t aware of the fabulous museum’s efforts to move to Chatham, please check out the information in this PDF.


STRs are Not Home Businesses:

The zoning laws are treating rental properties as home businesses.

The following information was recently sent to the Board from an Enrolled Agent with the IRS:

Short-term rentals are not home businesses. Both the federal and NYS governments, which are taxing authorities, recognize them as rental income

The facts of law: 

  • Rental income is considered passive income.
  • Passive income has different rules than business income.
  • Business income is considered earned income.
  • Losses for passive income have limitations and are not always 100% deductible. 
  • Losses for business income are 100% deductible.
  • Rental income of a personal-use dwelling of 14 days or less is not considered taxable income on your tax return, regardless of amount. This is the only known income or profit that is not reportable.
  • For example, if you sell your personal car and make a profit, you are required to report that to the government.
  • Another example, if you rent your house out for the Super Bowl, or for Saratoga Race Track, or for any reason, for 14 days or less, which could be three weekends (12 days), for $10K, $100K, or any amount of money, that is not reportable income.
  • If you are have a business for any amount of days, you must report the income, even if it’s just $1.
  • There is no such thing as a “home business” that would ever allow you not to report the income, even if you were open for business for just one day. 
  • This code of 14 days or less, does not apply to Bed and Breakfasts because they are considered by the IRS code as businesses. It ONLY applies to rental income of a personal-use dwelling.
  • Another distinction: Businesses that purchase equipment, such as refrigerators, A/C, etc., are allowed investment credit.
  • Rental properties, including STRs, are not allowed investment credit for such purchases.
  • The income from rental properties are not subject to self-employment tax, and are reported on Schedule E, the rental income schedule.
  • Earned income reported from any Bed and Breakfast, is reported on Schedule C, the business income schedule, subject to self-employment tax, regardless of the number of days rented.

NEW CONSTRUCTION:

180-33 Design Elements (for Hamlets):

This section reads like code from a Home Owner’s Association (HOA): Pay attention contractors and architects!

Don’t try to be original:

“New or in-fill construction should be designed so as to be compatible with the general character of buildings on the street frontage. The setback, height, bulk, gable and pitch of roofs, use of porches, shutters and other exterior design elements should result in an overall design that complements the existing character of the streetscape.”

Your roof…

“Dead-flat roofs are generally inconsistent with the existing character of the Town and should be avoided, except where the size or type of the building requires a flat roof and facade variations and other architectural features can disguise the flatness of the roof.”

It’s unclear what town they plucked this boiler-plate zoning template from, but there are many flat roofs in the village, why can’t they also exist farther out in town?

How big can you go?

“Buildings of 40 feet or more in width should be visually divided into smaller increments to reduce their apparent size and contribute to a human-scale development.” 

What even is a “human-scale development”?

Regardless, alterations of homes to create angles and divisions dramatically increase construction costs. But it’s your money, not theirs, so pony up.

Contractors and architects… you can’t build a home larger than 5,000 square feet in a hamlet. It’s unclear if you could build one larger than 5,000 square feet outside of a hamlet.

“Exceptions may be made only if the facades of larger buildings are articulated to appear as multiple buildings, each part of which does not exceed a maximum building footprint of 5,000 square feet.” 

Hamlets exist that are not congested, with a single properties having many acres. Unless the hamlets are zoned as a historical district, all of these restrictions are overboard.

Again, I DO hope the planning board has experience with architecture and design, so they are qualified to made these judgement calls.

The taste police are here…

“A covered front porch is a key element in fostering neighborly connections, providing a human scale to a dwelling, and offering surveillance of public space … Every new dwelling in the hamlet district shall have a covered entry porch oriented toward the common open space or street. This porch shall be open on at least two sides and shall not be enclosed.”

There’s that “human” word again…

They are requiring you to build a front porch. What if you just want a back porch? Or no porch at all?

Here are some more construction rules …

ARTICLE IV. Special Regulations (pages 95-124)

  • Detailed Site plan review by the Planning Board is required for all “nonresidential uses, public and semipublic buildings, multifamily residential units, timber operations, whether or not such development includes a subdivision, clustered subdivision, conservation subdivision, or resubdivision of a site.” 
  • the requirements of the site plan review are indeed quite detailed (and potentially personally costly for the applicant to fulfill)
  • Plan review is NOT required for single and two-family dwellings… nor is it required for “structures associated with a farm operation, commercial horse boarding operation and riding academy, and other agricultural structures.” So, if you happen to love (and own) horses, this plan’s for you!
  • The application form and fee may be determined in the future by the Board.
  • If the board thinks you aren’t fully presenting all future phases of a plan, they will reject it.
  • The planning board is tasked with determining a site plan’s “compatibility with the neighborhood and overall quality of Chatham.” Plans “shall honor traditional styles and patterns found in Chatham” and shall “harmonize visually and physically with the town’s traditional character.”  Plans should also emulate “traditional development patterns.”  (I hope the planning board has the requisite experience and knowledge) A few interesting details:
    • if you are planning “a conversion of an existing main street structure”, it must have provisions for both commercial and residential uses… what does this mean for the proposed Shaker Museum or does “main street” not really mean “Main Street”?
    • if you are building a non-agricultural building, you may not face it with plain, reinforced concrete slabs, corrugated steel, press wood, or mirror glass. (Hope you don’t want to build an inventive take on a mid-century modern home in Chatham! Or that you don’t own a home or building in Chatham that already sports these materials.)
    • utilities must be buried underground ($$$$$$)
    • there are very detailed rules about the size and placement of accessory buildings, garages, and parking — basically all hidden in back and facing the street.
    • But, they want you to be friendly!! So you have to build a front porch!  Again, read on: “A covered front porch is a key element in fostering neighborly connections, providing a human scale to a dwelling, and offering surveillance of public space. Its placement, size, relation to interior and public spaces, and the height of railings are all factors in achieving these intents. Every new dwelling in the hamlet district shall have a covered entry porch oriented toward the common open space or street. This porch shall be open on at least two sides and shall not be enclosed.”
  • There are many references to preventing disruption to neighbors by sound, vibration, odor, and light. Fair enough. I am curious how you prevent a “light source from being visible beyond a property boundary” however.
  •  I’m not certain what the following is referring to, but it sure seems like a very specific regulation for a very specific piece of property, doesn’t it?: The horizontal building elevation facing Route 295 shall provide a variety of architectural features such as but not limited to windows, pedestrian entrances, building offsets, projections, detailing, change in materials or similar features for a minimum of 30 percent of the horizontal building facade.” I do hope that landowner knows what this is about!

ACCESSORY BUILDINGS §180-36

One residential accessory building per lot, subject to special use permit.

If you have a detached garage, you already have an accessory building. You are done. No pool, no shed, nothing. You are at your limit, even if you have over 4 acres.

If you want to put in a pool, that counts as one accessory building. You cannot also build a pool house.

Note: there are a lot of “subject to special use permit” clauses. Read that as “Pay up, Buttercup.” See Section §180-30. Special use permits. 

“The aggregate footprint area of all accessory structures shall not exceed 50% of the primary structure’s footprint or 1,500 SF in floor area, whichever is more restrictive.”

“No accessory use or structure, including garages, sheds, swimming pools and tennis courts, may be located in the front yard of any residential lot.”

Let’s hope we all have big back yards.  


§180-50. Trailers, Mobile Homes and, yes, Tiny Houses. 

“No mobile home shall be located in the Town of Chatham, except as authorized by Chapter 151, Mobile Homes. Factory-manufactured homes, as defined in this chapter, are permissible as per 180-36, and 53.”

So, that means, you can ONLY use a mobile home, or factory-manufactured home, if you are housing farm workers (180-36), or as temporary residence due to construction (180-53).  

It appears in the §180-62. Cessation section, you would only be allowed to put up a mobile home within Edgewood Acres and Breezy Hill. But if you had land of your own, you could NOT put up a mobile home.

This aspect is in the current law, too, but when this was originally written, factory-manufactured homes were entirely different than they are now. Some are beautiful! Not to mention the economy was different. Such as…

TINY HOUSES: With the student-loan debt so high, many of the 20-something generation are now building or buying “tiny houses.”

“As of June 2018, Forbes reported that total US student debt was $1.52 trillion and that 44.2 million people owed debt. The average student debt is $38,390. The median student debt is between $10,000 and $25,000, while 2% of borrowers owe $100,000 or more.”

Tiny homes are significantly less expensive than buying a traditional home. They are also able to be pulled behind a truck. That puts them in the category of either recreational vehicle or mobile home.

The trend of tiny homes is growing. It’s practical. But just like ignoring the rise in demand of short-term rentals, these new zoning laws do not take future growth and trends into account. They aren’t considering how the next generation wants (or will have to) live because of their economic circumstances.

Example: Let’s say your child has a $40,000 student loan debt. You have a house on 5 acres. Your child wants to save money but also wants privacy. They want to put up a tiny house in your backyard instead of living in your basement, just for a couple of years, while they get on their feet.

What’s wrong with this plan? Property taxes, that’s what’s wrong. Because these homes are mobile, the town can’t charge property tax for them, but only for the land they are on. Hence why they are restricting all mobile homes to be limited to mobile-home parks.

Yet they claim to want to limit short-term rentals because there’s a lack of affordable housing. Can you see the hypocrisy?

This rule smacks of elitism. There’s no other way to interpret the shaming of people for living in an alternate type of home, just to save themselves money.

§180-51. Storage of mobile homes, boats, trailers and trucks. 

“Except as may be otherwise permitted under the provisions of this chapter or any other Town regulation, no mobile home, boat, trailer, travel trailer, RV or truck shall be stored (which is different from parked) in the front yard in any district. See also §180-58.” 

Please note, the reader has been searching unsuccessfully for the definitions of “parked” and “stored” in the document.

So, if you have a boat and want to store it for the winter, but don’t have a parking area in the backyard… which isn’t clear any type of parking is allowed in your backyard anyway… you need to pay hundreds of dollars to have it stored somewhere else. But that storage facility probably has to put up screening now, in order to be in compliance.

What is the definition of “truck”? Is your Toyota or Ford pickup a truck? Or are they talking about box trucks, or ones of certain weight. It doesn’t matter, because as this law is written today, any truck stored in your driveway would be in violation, even if it’s spanking brand new and beautiful.


Mini-Mart/Convenience Store (No drive through allowed) 

At the edge of the village, sits Chatham RiteAid/Walgreens, which is not only a drugstore, but also a convenience store. They have a drive-through pick up. Will that have to be removed?

When you look closely at the Village of Chatham map, you’ll see Rite Aid appears to be in Ghent. Lucky for them!


ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS:

“Chairperson. The Town Board shall appoint one of the Zoning Board of Appeals members as chairperson to preside at all meetings and hearings and to fulfill the authorized duties of that office.”

Perhaps this has always been the practice, but why is the Town Board choosing who is the chairperson of the Zoning Board of Appeals? Shouldn’t that board decide on their own who is their leader?

But while we’re here, let’s talk about history. It was brought to our attention by multiple people who were on the Planning and Zoning Boards that Maria Lull would instruct them on who to approve and who to decline. Many people serving our town quit because of it.

Shameful.


ENFORCEMENT:

That’s one big section. God help the Code Enforcement Officer.

DOWNLOAD THE NEW ZONING LAWS HERE


NEXT TOWN BOARD MEETING IS THURSDAY, AUGUST 1st! PLEASE COME! Town Board Meetings are held at 488 State Route 295 on the first Thursday of the month at 6:00 PM (if needed) and on the third Thursday of the month at 6:00 PM.

Contact the Town Board to voice your concerns.

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