Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Of Interest

Last night, Register-Star reporter Amanda Purcell published an article on HudsonValley360 about the resignation of Walter Chatham: "No replacement planned for planning board chairman." The essential news is that, with no more Planning Board meetings scheduled for 2019 and the new mayor having the right to appoint a new Planning Board chair in 2020, Mayor Rick Rector will not be appointing someone to replace Chatham for the few days that remain in 2019. Chatham appears to have provided a statement to the Register-Star, somewhat different from the one provided to Gossips, which is quoted in the report.


  1. I was going to hold my tongue (despite the fact that, as Chairman, Mr. Chatham once called me "evil" during a Planning Board meeting for challenging a since-fired attorney's knowledge of SEQRA), but in Mr. Chatham's latest statement we see the limits of a paternalistic approach to governance.

    Evidently it was the public but never his own actions which "created an atmosphere of confusion and fear" whenever residents sought to "undermine the careful legal steps" put together by "many, many people." (Paternalistic Rule #1: lawyers are trained experts and, as such, are always wise.)

    I'd agree with him that people who are merely convinced of their rightness also present hazards, but doesn’t that pretty much characterize his own approach?! As Chairman I once heard him defend the view that SEQR doesn't apply equally to all applicants. And that was in a prepared speech.

    It was paternalism which allowed Mr. Chatham to ignore many of the facts of the case (preserved in submitted narratives, official letters, site plans, SEQR Findings Statements, etc) in order to promote the apparently foregone conclusion that no matter what the proposal of this particular applicant mitigation was the answer (read: compromise).

    Here's the deal: the Great Compromise already took place in 2011 when the City overhauled the Zoning Code to accommodate the previous owner's plans. All parties sacrificed something to reach a stable outcome. But when the property was sold three years later, a new proposal scrubbed the 2011 compromise and moved the goalposts to the advantage of the new landowner.

    No agency, and certainly not Mr. Chatham's Planning Board, has even begun to penetrate the trickery and contrivances employed to confuse the 2011 compromise, and yet this new landowner's new plan was Chairman Chatham's starting point.

    Everyone is wrong to look backwards on his say-so, and yet I don't recall his involvement in 2011 to lend any substance this view.

    It's intolerable to hear him now say that "facts don't matter to some people." They don’t matter to him!

    To all appearances, Mr. Chatham expected residents to follow his "careful" lead towards some form of compromise, but when the children resisted he became "angry."

    Thank you for your service and your knowledge, Mr. Chatham, which was often helpful for Planning Board matters. But in regard to the Colarusso application it was best you got out of the way. And thanks for that, too.

  2. In today's paper Mr. Chatham revealed a timidity the conditions of which he freely imposed on a disobedient public:

    "When (not if) this ends up back in the courts …"

    Were his "many many" advisors aware that the applicant's previous lawsuit against the city went belly up? Is the erstwhile plaintiff making better arguments now? I see them making similarly outlandish ones.

    Their fear of being sued is inordinate and foolhardy, as demonstrated by the willingness of Mr. Chatham and his "many many" advisors to tie the hands of the Planning Board members regardless of the case law which specifically allows them to pursue any line of inquiry they deem important, and even to base their Determination of Significance on the answers.

    So if they cannot be sued for it, then why were these advisors so keen to prevent the Board members from asking the kinds of questions they wanted to ask?

    At the last Board meeting the city attorney instructed members to pursue only those inquiries which applied within the Colarusso gate, while the city's engineer simultaneously dropped "traffic" concerns from consideration because inside the gate the public won’t interact with the company's trucks. What utter nonsense.

    Talk about creating "an atmosphere of confusion and fear," it's that kind of irresponsible expertise - Mr. Chatham's "careful legal steps" - which will get the City sued by its own residents!

    (For anyone curious about traffic questions in the Full Environmental Assessment Form, our expensive engineer has absolutely no idea what he's talking about:

    Rather than conduct the kind of inquiry encouraged in the state environmental review process (SEQR), Mr. Chatham's focus would invariably drift to the potential "benefits" of compromise driven by his inordinate fear. Ditto Mr. Chatham's advisors (one of whom will remain, though the next Board would be wise to cut him loose).

    They all believed that surrendering was the best we could hope for, and without any regard whatsoever for the great effort and eventual compromise of the Common Council's 2011 SEQR review.

  3. As I wrote to the Register Star this morning, I am troubled a number of Walter's statements, but none so much as his disparaging comments about residents (I assume myself included) who have spoken at recent Planning Board meetings. With all due respect to his service on the Board, I have not appreciated his aforementioned paternalism nor presumption of powers he did not have in dealing with Colarusso and its permit application. More importantly, as a citizen of Hudson, I defend my right to speak up at public meetings and to express what I believe to be the truth, whether officials like Walter like it or not.

    1. It's worth repeating that he called me "evil" at a Planning Board meeting he was Chairing.

      At the time we were disagreeing on a process question and the technical meaning of "segmentation."

  4. Let me give an example of segmentation. Walter has segmented himself from the planning board. Which means in lay man's terms separated himself, no longer a part of something...If the gavel fell an W C watch it would have come down an Calaruso side ,just my opinion he had enough of board flunkies to support him, one need only look at the record to see who wanted to close the public comment on 3 separate occasions. SILENCE IS THE VERTUE FOOLS.

  5. Regarding Amanda Purcell’s December 18th article - No Replacement Planned for Planning Board Chairman: Walter Chatham’s comments were very upsetting, as he maligned citizens (myself presumably included) for undermining “the careful legal steps” that he and the City Attorney had “felt was the best course” after “consulting with many, many people” on the A Colarusso & Son proposals. It appears that Mr. Chatham and Mr. Howard had a pre-conceived idea of what the course, and possibly outcome, of the A Colarusso & Son projects should be, regardless of the public’s expressed concerns, regardless of the views of fellow Board members, and regardless of the SEQR process! As I understand it, this approach is in violation of how the process should work. Deciding on a course of action without full buy-in from fellow board members is not the way the Hudson Planning Board is supposed to work. The Chairman does not determine outcomes; that is done by the panel in full and only after all the information required to make a determination has been gathered.

    I also take exception to Mr. Chatham’s statement that "they are so convinced of the rightness of their cause that they will resort to any means to get what they want.” It’s very concerning that simply expressing one’s viewpoint and requesting compliance with the formal SEQR process would be viewed as a negative. I’m looking forward to the new Planning Board and chairperson that hopefully welcome public comment and are supportive of following the SEQR process as intended. Respectfully, Donna Streitz, 1st Ward Resident