Planning board seats open up as members sell their homes

Chester's government faces losses and other challenges at a time of intensive development

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  • Meetings in Chester have been attracting full houses lately, as residents seek updates on new development in town (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Rick Golden at the June 6 planning board meeting (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

By Frances Ruth Harris

— Two members of the Town of Chester Planning Board are stepping down.

Longtime member Barry Sloan told The Chronicle after last week's planning board meeting that he was selling his house and moving to Florida — the state of — and would no longer serve. He had been on the planning board for more than a decade.

Konrad Mayer is also leaving the planning board. He confirmed to The Chronicle that he is "putting his house on the market and retiring."

When asked if he would be leaving Chester altogether, he said, "I really don't want to talk about it. Bye."

Anyone wanting to apply for a planning board position may send a letter of interest to town clerk Linda Zappala, 1786 Kings Highway, Chester, NY 10918.

A difficult time for the boardThe changes come at a difficult time for the planning board, which has been under fire for what some residents say is insufficient oversight of all the new development in town. The Greens of Chester, now under construction, is a 451-unit housing development that county executive Steve Neuhaus, a Chester native and former supervisor, has warned will "cripple" the local school district. An electrical contracting business at 191 Lehigh Avenue continued to operate a messy site for more than a year after the zoning board of appeals denied their variance, and is due in court on June 18 on trash violations. A proposed Verizon cell tower has raised fears over the effect of radio frequencies on health. The 29-unit Baroda subdivision prompted former town supervisor Tim Diltz to call it "planned sprawl, at worst a conventional 1960s style subdivision plopped down into a rural large-lot setting — the exact situation that all towns must avoid." Residents have raised concerns over traffic hazards that will be exacerbated by other, smaller projects in the works.

At the same time, the town board, which supervises the planning board, has been thrown into disarray after the recent arrest at town hall of the current supervisor, Alex Jamieson, for allegedly collecting approximately $6,000 unlawfully from the department of labor in 2013 and 2014. He faces one count of third-degree grand larceny and 22 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, all felonies. At a June 13 conference in Albany, a court date was set for 9 a.m. on July 9 at Albany Criminal Court.

Several residents have questioned the town's ability to handle so many projects, asking, if the town cannot manage one electrical business, how can it manage a big project like the Greens?

Kristi Kerns Greco questioned Councilman Brendan Medican's sustained absence from board meetings.

"Have you ever had a job and just stopped showing up without consequences and still receive payment for said job?" she said on Facebook. "Isn’t that what town Councilman Medican is doing? He has been to 1 meeting for 10 minutes and MIA for months — why?"

Lehigh hearing setThe electrical contractor at 191 Lehigh, now called Global Light, hired lawyer Rick Golden, who also serves as attorney for the town of Goshen and other muncipalities.

At Chester's June 6 planning board meeting, engineer Ryan D. Fellenzer presented the site plan for Global LIght. The board scheduled a public hearing on the site plan for July 18.

Board members asked for modifications that would hide operations behind trees and fences.

Sloan asked Golden for a list of all violations at 191 Lehigh over the last three years. Golden said will get the list from building inspector Jim Farr and provide them at the next meeting. Golden also said he would check with the building department about the authorization of sheds on the property.

Fellenzer said the town's zoning law changed in September, and now allows the business. He said no customers are coming in and out, and that the business doesn't run on weekends. It runs from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day, Monday through Friday.

Fellenzer said there would be no lights on at night. A motion detector lighting system is mounted to the building now.

Board member Jackie Elfers asked, What happens if the garbage comes back?

The board said it wants the dumpster area contained within a cement structure. Golden assured the public that screening will hide operations from view.

Tom Becker, a neighbor of the business, submitted another letter of complaint.

"You heard their lawyer say a business is running there," he said at the June 6 meeting.

Becker said 191 Lehigh operates outside the law. Those who have been complaining about the situation for more than a year say they have never heard back about their complaints, Becker said.

In other businessIn other business on June 6:

The planning board gave a negative declaration to Kips Bay, meaning there is no substantial evidence the project will have a significant impact on the environment;

The planning board gave a negative declaration and final approval to Lake Station;

Verizon's site plan review has been postponed and rescheduled for the third time;

Dorian DeHaan/John Condatore Jr.'s site plan review was rescheduled;

Alan Michalka will return with additional information about changing a commercial building to a mixed-use building;

Simon Ostreicher of 1251 Kings Highway presented a preliminary draft "to see how the board felt" about his three-lot subdivision. He plans to submit a site application in the future.

Related story: "Public balks at new development proposed for Chester":

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