Response to the Incumbent Mailer

Local elections should not be partisan. They have nothing to do with national politics. They are personal, impacting our day-to-day lives in an intimate way. Having trust in our officials is critical for citizens to feel hopeful and confident in our leadership.

Bob Linville shares his concerns regarding a recent misleading mailing by the incumbents.


To the Residents of Chatham,

The Democrats’ mailer of August 2nd is audacious, pompous and misleading.  It demands a response to correct the perception it creates.

Claiming that an inherited budget deficit existed four years ago is wrong.  Monies moving around between accounts as the need dictates does not show a built-in deficit.  To talk of a structural deficit is to speak of something that is not there.  And what is a zero-based budget anyway?  Gobbledygook to impress. 

Further, there have always been reserve funds for different purposes in the Town.  Again, those funds are created and used as necessary.  They are then replenished as necessary.  Holding tax increases to 2% is not heroism.  It has always been done and is the state law.  There is no triumphant success here, just noisy back-patting.

Further, puffing about increasing the number of meetings, committees and participants is no more than gassing.  When is a meeting a product?  Anyone who has attended the Town Board or Committee meetings knows there is no real exchange of ideas leading to modification of decisions.  Questions are not answered except with promises of answers later. 

Only heavy pressure causes the Board to react at all.  When it does react, the response is grudging and often displays contempt for the citizen.  It is clear the Board members do not like or respect the citizens of Chatham or their well-being at all.  The proposed zoning law and its choking requirements make that clear.

Lastly, listing goals like business development, park improvements or less expensive housing is tiresome and obvious.  What has happened, really, in the last four years?  Everything is in the future and we are told member re-election is necessary for it.  I think not.

Bob Linville
Old Chatham

#TruthMatters #TrustMatters

SAM Party of New York Endorses Donal Collins for Chatham Town Supervisor

Focus on engaging the community earns Donal Collins SAM Party Nomination

October 2, 2019 — SAM Party of New York Chairman Michael Volpe today announced the endorsement of Donal Collins for Chatham Town Supervisor. Collins is part of a wave of residents who are looking for a way to break through partisan politics to get results for their community.

SAM Party of New York was founded to support candidates who are involved in their local communities and dedicated to getting things done. The SAM Party interviewed more than 200 candidates across New York State interested in running on the SAM Party line and promoting SAM’s principles of good government, transparency, and engaging residents to build solutions that work.

“The SAM Party is supporting candidates like Collins who are dedicated to improving the public engagement in their community and improving public discourse around important issues Chatham’s residents face,” said SAM Party of New York Chair Michael Volpe. “Donal’s understanding of the local economy across multiple sectors and efforts to increase economic opportunity for Chatham’s residents make us proud to nominate him for Chatham Town Supervisor. We encourage residents to vote for Donal Collins on the SAM Party line on November 5th.” 

“Chatham is a township of great diversity and I would like to see this defining characteristic brought to not only the town board, but the public participation in its deliberations as well,” said Chatham Town Supervisor Candidate Donal Collins. “I want to thank the SAM Party for nominating me for Town Supervisor. Their message of for ‘people over politics,’ is exactly how I believe elected officials should lead, and as Supervisor I promise to represent the concerns of all Chatham citizens regardless of party affiliation.”

For more information about SAM and what we stand for visit www.joinSAMNY.org.

Meet Donal Collins, our next Town Supervisor!


What is SAM?

SAM is New York’s New Party – an inclusive party, not separated by an aisle. SAM is about people who don’t want to be in a “red” or “blue” box, but want to come together for change and solutions.

Who really closed the door to communication with the citizens of Chatham?

The Lull, Richardson, and Sperry camp sent out a mailer recently, full of chest-thumping claims that are inaccurate. We’ll just address one of those today, because our focus really is on zoning. This one just couldn’t go without addressing, however, because we have spent hours and hours on the town website, researching, and laughed out loud at the following claim…

CLAIM: When speaking of the current Town Board, the mailing claims, “the old closed-door backroom days are gone.”

Really? From our view, the communication just keeps getting worse instead of better. While they take one step forward, like creating a new Facebook page (which we applaud), they take two steps back by posting only 2 times since it launched – a post about flu shots, and another about a farm tour, yet no posts at all about meeting dates and times.

When looking at the principle communication device of the Town of Chatham’s Town Board, their own website, we discovered some illuminating lack of information and what a logical person might consider “closed-door backroom” behavior.

FACTS:

Let’s take this one committee at a time.

Citizens Finance & Planning Committee: Michael Richardson is the chair, and candidate Gabriella Sperry is a member, and there are no minutes posted since June 30, 2017, when Bob Balcom was the chair. Balcom seemed to post minutes. There is one set of minutes in 2017, and 7 minutes for 2016. But Richardson then took over as chair… and the minutes stopped. Not one in 2018. Not one in 2019. Yet we know they had meetings, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but not all.

Chatham Agricultural Partnership (CAP): Michael Richardson is the board member on this committee, and no minutes are posted on the website for any year. It is unclear if this committee has met recently. No information is available on the site. (But we do know that the current CAP sent a seething email to the Town Board, strongly objecting to the proposed zoning laws as not being agriculture friendly!)

Climate Smart Committee: Kevin Weldon is the board member on this committee, but according to the site, Councilwoman Landra Haber is also listed as a committee member. Note that she is no longer a councilwoman, but still listed as one on the website. No minutes posted. Yet, again, we know they had meetings, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but without agendas.

Communications Committee: Kevin Weldon is the chair. Maria Lull, as supervisor, is a de facto member of all committees, but has chosen to be listed as a member of this committee only. No minutes are posted on the site. Yet we know they had meetings, again, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but without agendas.

Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee: Bob Balcom is the chair. Like the Ag Committee, we aren’t sure if they have met in the past few years because nothing is available on the website and, per the board, they did not intend to review the Comprehensive Plan until the new zoning laws are passed… even though on page 6 of the current Comp Plan (adopted in 2009) it specifically states, “…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.”

Park and Recreation Committee: John Wapner and Kevin Weldon are the co-chairs. No minutes are posted. Yet, once again, we know they had meetings, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but without agendas.

Roads Committee: John Wapner is the board member on that committee. The website shows they met twice in November, 2017, but not before or since. Information created by this committee was posted on the site, but no minutes or agendas.

Now… let’s look back at the only committee from the past administration that is posted on the current Town of Chatham website:

Zoning Implementation Committee: 2012 to 2015 from the previous administration (which, remember, the Democratic mailing defines as “closed-door”), has a total of 59 minutes posted: 2012, 15 minutes posted; 2013, 14 minutes posted; 2014, 17 minutes posted; 2015, 13 minutes posted. Again, 59 documents. Full disclosure and transparency!

Gee, that doesn’t seem very closed-door to us!

If one was to believe the website (which we’ve been assured by the current Town Board is the best place to find out what’s going on in our town), the current board is operating in a “closed-door backroom” manner.

Of course, despite the lack of information on the site, we know these committees indeed meet and are working hard. No one is disputing that. We truly appreciate the volunteers attending and helping the board find solutions to problems. But the lack of transparency as to agendas and minutes is alarming, leading a logical person to surmise the recent Lull, Richardson, Sperry mailing is misleading, at best, to imply they are governing with full transparency.

That doesn’t even go into how the agenda posted on the website for last Thursday’s board meeting was actually for a previous July 18th meeting instead of a new agenda for September 19th. Apparently, the real agenda wasn’t posted until an hour before the meeting.

IMPORTANT FACT, missing from the mailing: According to the New York State Open Meeting Law, minutes for any open meeting, including committee meetings, are to be posted no more than two weeks after the meeting date.

As of today, not only are the above committee meeting minutes mentioned still not posted, the last set of minutes posted for the Town Board meetings are from July 8, 2019.

Hmmm…

We’ve often heard excuses of “troubles with the new website,” or the new webmaster (who is a volunteer, appointed after Michael Richardson shamefully, wrongly, and publicly humiliated our Town Clerk) being behind on updating the site — but remember, he’s only a volunteer and has only been doing this a short time. The missing minutes go back years.

This is not the webmaster’s issue. Then or now. The information has to be provided to be posted. Provision is the direct responsibility of the committee/meeting chair. Who, of course, finally answers to the Town Supervisor. Start of issue, 2016. And still not addressed after continual exposure. Start of first term Supervisor Maria Lull, 2016.

Communication is lacking (ironically, the one committee her name is listed on as a member). The doors are indeed open at their meetings, but if they aren’t listed on the calendars and minutes aren’t provided, how can the citizens feel anything but a door slamming in their faces? They feel disrespected and dismissed. That is the truth.

Truth Matters… and sometimes it hurts to hear it.

#TrustMatters #TransparencyMatters #WhoClosedTheDoor

Ted Miner Thoughts on Q&A Meetings

Thoughts from Ted Miner. An important read, as Ted has attended every single Q&A and Town Board meeting since our stampede into the Town Hall on June 20th to voice our objection to the proposed zoning laws.

**** 08/10/19 ****
It has been a bit since I have commented on Chatham’s zoning proposition issue. I thought to write this in satire, but, having second thoughts……..

The process has been grinding along with all indications openness and clarity were to be hallmarks of the effort at the finale. That may yet be, but recent events are throwing roadblocks, making this possibility a challenge.

June 20th, 2019 was a pivotal day for our town. Regardless, the purported agenda, or lack of, our town, (notice please I did not say any group exclusively), learned we have a communication problem. A tipping point was achieved. Through the efforts of a very few, in a very short amount of time, a wave of town residents showed to voice an opinion. Right/wrong/yes/no, it does not matter the thought. The raw fact they all felt necessary to break their habits to come was lesson enough.

Our town needs better communication devices. Happily the board has come to recognize this fact and has challenged for solution(s). Unhappily, the old sentiment, “they all know when we meet”, will never carry the day again. While the legality of the thought is fine, the practice has dire consequences, as evidenced that evening.

The movement to a Zoning Proposition based on a minimum ten year old Comprehensive Plan concerns me. Even within the document, (page 6), it specifically calls for 5-7 year review. Our board recognizes the short coming while considering ongoing committees of Comprehensive Plan and Zoning review. The Plan was wrote at approximately the same time Chatham schools submitted a 47 million dollar bond proposal for school upgrades, (for multiple of reasons). It failed. Dramatically. I suggest for the same shortcomings the Plan suffers. If reviewed the past couple years those that rose to defeat the 47M Bond would contribute and the Plan would include low-income housing concerns as well. Etc.

The FaceBook page “Chatham United for Common Sense Zoning” has been attacked with some vicious vitriol. Some of which, wisely, has been removed. While the sentiments have been heartfelt, the lowering to personal attacks has been demoralizing. I have to say that the tone was achieved first by “the opposition.” You may disagree. My point made.

Letters have appeared in the local paper(s). Again, the lowering to personal attacks have not carried the factual arguments, nor made positions more attractive. The skirting of issues to twist to advantage insults me. I would hope it insults you. BTW – I don’t care the partnership status, or lack thereof, of ANY participant.

Nor do I care as to anybody’s longevity of Chatham occupation. A day, month, year, decade, or generations; we are all in this together having made the financial and emotional commitments to reside in our town.

Finally, regarding the letters’ “late to the party” comments…….. How about, “Welcome. Glad to have you. Sit down, may I get you some coffee? Do you have any questions? Anything to add?” What a novel idea. I fully appreciate the extended effort of those involved “from the beginning.” But that is not a card carrying right to exclude or demean another. Conversely, respect must be accorded knowledge. Especially when given openly and generously.

“Truth Matters.” Welcome to the party. I wish I had known of your FaceBook presence earlier. In an effort to promote all views to come to common ground I would encourage the review of their information. I hope “Truth Matters” takes a lead from local schooling efforts and publishes thoughts from all sides. As we all know, “truth” is most of the time dictated by the victor, a position I would hope we all may lay claim.

The actions of the Aug. 8th board meeting concern me. After suggesting at the Q&A’s “Short Term Rental concerns be tabled for a more detailed review of the balance of the proposition”, the board dramatically revised the STR “domicile” definition. All previous conversation had been as to the longevity of owner’s stay at site factoring rental abilities. Then, “whatever is identified on tax returns” became the norm. I suggest the, (category 2,3,4), STR people may feel short changed. I would. The balance of the board meeting was then kindly opened up to the floor for public dialog. Certainly needed as subjects came up for decision that still had not been fully reviewed in the Q&A’s. I applaud the board for the “meet in the middle” attitude. I expect the next Q&A meeting to be along the same lines. Finally, a Q&A is scheduled for Aug. 20th from 5-7:00. I hope it is enough time to satisfy an earlier board comment, “We will continue to have these Q&A’s until there are no more questions”. If not, I expect to sit through more.

I recognize “politics is a blood sport,” yet I do not condone the mirroring of state and federal representatives’ actions locally. This is not about party affiliation or position. Local politics is about local people, neighbors all, who have to live together at the end. Some of us even to the end.

Thank you for taking the time. Back to work.

**** 08/13/19. Update ****
10 hours since the gavel dropped on the best Chatham Board experience I have ever sat through. Not because anybody “won”…. or lost. Because of the openness and concise and concerned participation of all. This was town government at its best.

Congratulations to the Chatham Town Board and I would add the same to Chatham United and Truth Matters. And to all the neighbors who have given effort towards an end we all may live.

Next Q&A. 08/20/19. 5-7 @ the town hall.
“These will stop when the people don’t show and the questions are exhausted.”

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.

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.

Town Board Candidates: Donal, Vance & Abi – Bring Trust & Balance Back to the Board

Vance Pitkin (Town Council), Donal Collins (Town Supervisor), Abi Mesick (Town Council)

COLLINS • PITKIN • MESICK
For Balanced Town Government

Download your absentee ballot here!

Voter Registration Information: Am I registered? How do I register?

Meet Donal Collins, Vance Pitkin, and Abi Mesick the candidates running to replace the Town Supervisor and Councilmen whose terms are running out (Mari Lull, Bob Balcom, and Michael Richardson).

  • Bring balance to the Town Board
  • Make certain that Chatham’s zoning reflects the needs of our rural community and protects our natural resources
  • Encourage public outreach that is effective, consistent and sincere
  • Maintain diverse and independent boards and committees
  • Ensure Chatham remains family-friendly, farm-friendly and business-friendly
  • Revisit and update the comprehensive plan
  • Address and set affordable fee schedules
  • Develop a plan for controlled economic growth with input from the public

Donal, Vance, and Abi believe that Chatham belongs to all of its residents- not just a few. No matter what our party affiliation is, how long we have lived here, or what neighborhood we live in, we need to unite.

Please help us bring back balance and accountability to the Chatham Town Board.

Please VOTE on Tuesday, November 5, 2019



Donal Collins: Town Supervisor

“My name is Donal Collins, and I am running for Chatham Town Supervisor. River Road in Chatham has been my home for most of my life. My parents, both teachers, grew sweet corn and kept some livestock. With my partner Abi, and step sons Ethan and Jacob, we have carried on the farming tradition. We sell hay, compost, eggs, small fruit, and beef on the hoof. Before settling back down at home, after graduating from Chatham Central School, I earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Tulane University. In addition to tending to the daily operation of the farm, I am employed by 3D PhotoWorks/Nancy Scans in the village of Chatham, as a CAD/CAM engineer.

Although a registered Democrat for most of my life, I am switching to no-party affiliation for this important position. Chatham is a township of great diversity, and I would like to see this defining characteristic brought to not only the town board, but also to the public participation in its deliberations as well. I hope to represent the concerns of all Chatham citizens.”

“Like” Donal’s Facebook Page!

Meet Donal Collins, our next Town Supervisor!


Vance Pitkin: Town Council

vance pitkin“I’ve lived in Columbia County since 1992 and will be celebrating my 23rd year in business, in the Village of Chatham, this month. During this time, I have witnessed many changes to our diverse community. I have been a lifelong Republican and fiscal conservative and have served in the past on the Chatham Republican Committee. My longtime partner, Jennifer Lawrence and I, have lived in Old Chatham for almost 20 years, where we maintain a small horse farm. My years as an independent small business person, volunteer fire fighter and part time farmer have afforded me an opportunity to see life in our special town from many different perspectives. I feel these perspectives give me insight and ability to represent a broad cross section of residents. My ability to listen is one of my strong points and, if elected, I will consider all concerns of my fellow residents and endeavor to represent them equally. The current board appears to have lost sight of their job as public servants and I see a need for a proper balance between preservation of rural nature and protection of property rights.”

“Like” Vance’s Facebook Page!


Abi Mesick: Town Council

abi mesick“Part of Chatham’s charm is its diversity; full time, most of the time, part time, and passing through. People, farm land, wood land, development, and village. Modest homes for modest means and mansions for millionaires, mobile homes and manufactured housing, airbnb’s and apartments. For all of us to enjoy this wonderful town we need to be sure that our laws and fees are reasonable. Our zoning should never be used to make areas of our town exclusive or make someone feel that they just do not belong here anymore. In order to keep Chatham a friendly and inclusive town we need to safeguard a balance on the town board. I am offering to help with this important, ongoing job.”

“Like” Abi’s Facebook page!

Check the candidates Facebook pages to see when they’ll be conducting “Meet and Greets” and educate yourself on their viewpoints! Volunteer and offer your help to get them elected!


Support the Friends of Donal, Vance & Abi!

If you want to see a more balanced Chatham Town Board, please consider donating to the “Friends of Donal, Vance and Abi”—your support will help Chatham’s future!

The Following Payment page is administered by Friends of Donal, Vance & Abi, a registered political committee under NYS Election Law

Friends of Donal, Vance and Abi
P.O. Box 123
Old Chatham 12136

Letter to the Board from Chatham Agricultural Partnership

At the Town Board Q&A, the Planner kept insisting the new zoning laws were created with farming in mind… but the Chatham Agricultural Partnership (CAP) has concerns.

The following is an email CAP sent the board.


July 8, 2019

TO: Town Board, Town of Chatham
FROM: Chatham Agricultural Partnership (“CAP”)
RE: Proposed Zoning Changes


The Chatham Agricultural Partnership (CAP) is writing to express our concerns over the proposed changes to the current Zoning in the Town of Chatham, most specifically as the proposed changes affect farms and farming in Chatham. 

The CAP is a group appointed by the Town Board and charged with overseeing the implementation of the Town of Chatham Agricultural Protection Plan that was adopted by the Town September 17, 2009. Goals of the plan include achieving a “zero net loss” of working farmland by addressing farm transition issues and new farm development, being a “farm friendly” town, and supporting and sustaining a system of locally grown, healthy foods.

As you are well aware, a full 25% of the town’s land is in active agricultural use. Most of that is in NYS designated agricultural districts.  It is critical that our Zoning Law respects and supports this.  Specifically any zoning needs to align with and support the recommendations in the Plan and in concert with policies associated with being in a designated agricultural district.

We believe that the Town Board has consistently, over many years and administrations, sent clear signals of support for farming in Chatham, as demonstrated by:

  • Right to Farm Law passed in 2008.
  • Inclusion of a farming committee in the Comprehensive Planning process, in recognition of the important role that agriculture plays in the economic, environmental, and aesthetic character of Chatham.
  • Adoption of Agricultural Protection Plan in 2009 – which was also approved by Columbia County and New York State.
  • Appointment of a permanent body reporting to the Town Board in support of agriculture – the Chatham Agricultural Partnership.

However, throughout this re-writing of the proposed Zoning Code, no member of the Chatham Agricultural Partnership was on the committee, nor, to our knowledge were any primary-income farmers on the drafting committee.  We are dismayed by this disregard for such an important part of the community.

As stated in the Agricultural Protection Plan, farming in Chatham is a fragile enterprise. One action can put a farm out of business, and that subsequently impacts other farming operations. There are numerous interdependencies among existing farms.

And as you may be aware, trying to survive financially operating a family farm is not an easy task.  Farmers need to be creative in ways to reach their end-market and frequently need to find additional sources of revenue from their farm, farm land and ancillary structures on their land.  We find many of the well-intentioned but over-reaching proposals in the new Code to ignore these economic realities and to potentially limit and restrict farm or adjunct operations.  The unintended consequence will be the loss of farms and the sub-division and development of farming lands.

Outside pressures already exist in NYS and nationwide.  As the Buffalo News writes: “New farm labor mandates will wreak havoc across upstate’s agricultural community…in many upstate areas, family farms are critical to the local economy and a part of community identity.  A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found that New York State lost 2,000 farms from 2012 through 2017. Thanks to these down-state driven labor mandates, there’s no doubt that thousands of other farms will close in the coming years.”

We do not want to see Chatham add further restraints and obstacles to those already coming from the outside.  On the contrary, Chatham needs to be doing everything it can to help farms survive outside pressures.  It takes a community to support farming. Farmers purchase locally. If you lose farms, you lose farm suppliers. If you lose farm land, neighboring farms become less viable. If you lose farms, the local food system is impacted. If you lose farms, the beautiful rural landscape is at risk.

Please pause this approval process to ensure the needs of Chathams farms and farmers are fully considered, meet NYS Agriculture standards, and serve the best interests of the entire community.

Respectfully Yours,
The Board of the Chatham Agricultural Partnership

Mary Gail Biebel
Bob Bradford
Tom Clark
Tom Crowell
Willy Denner
Jeff Lick
Courtney McDonnell
Eric Ooms
Edie Root
Donna Staron


1 Town of Chatham Agricultural Protection Plan, page 5.

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.