CHATHAM – The long tradition of summer residents gathering to hear about and discuss town issues will continue on Aug. 3. In fact, this will be the 75th year of the annual summer town meeting, which was even held last summer during the pandemic, although it was virtual.
“Meeting in person is much better for us,” said Joel Rottner, chair of the summer residents advisory committee, which sponsors the session. The committee met on its regular Friday at 9 a.m. schedule all last summer, hearing from town department heads and other officials on a variety of topics. For the past several weeks they've been meeting in person at the annex.
“We're eager to hear speakers address us, be able to ask questions and have around-the-table participation,” Rottner said.
So far this summer, the 13-member committee has heard from Community Development Director Kathleen Donovan and planner Aly Sabatino, who clarified how 40B comprehensive permits for affordable housing work, and from DPW Director Tom Temple and Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson on the town's water supply issues. In the coming weeks they'll meet with Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon on dredging and erosion and Harbormaster Stuart Smith about the mooring bylaw revisions. Given their scarcity, moorings have been an issue of interest to the committee since 2017, and their focus has been on transparency of the process, said Rottner.
The fate of a new senior center – “a can of worms,” Rottner said – and town finances are also topics of discussion.
“We continue to look at spending, which is always a concern, and prioritizing of capital projects,” he said.
Affordable housing is a major concern of the committee, according to Rottner, and will be one of several agenda items at the summer town meeting, which takes place at the annex at 7 p.m. Member Phil Richardson will revisit a cluster housing presentation that he gave last year that sparked considerable interest. The discussion will center around how that concept can be adapted to the land available for affordable housing in Chatham, Rottner said.
Town officials will provide updates, and there will be a focus on potable water issues, including the recent closing of a town well due to contamination by PFAS chemicals. Member Jill MacDonald will report on the history of the town's wastewater project and how it morphed from covering specific problem areas to encompassing most of the town. Included will be a discussion of the cost of connecting to town sewer, which the committee has been looking at for two years.
“We're going to look very closely at connection costs and what can be done,” Rottner said.
The committee is currently down two members, and Rottner encouraged any second home owner to apply. A resident of West Hartford, he noted that members live off-season in Florida, California, Massachusetts and other states.
“The more members we have the more diversity of views we have,” he said. Several longtime members may also be looking to step down if new members can be found, added Rottner, who has served on the committee for 12 years. If a summer resident wants to learn more about the workings of the town, “this is the place,” he said.
“I think you really feel a part of the town” by serving on the committee, he added. Although the committee is advisory, “we always know the town listens and appreciates what the committee says. That keeps the committee going.”
Both year-round and summer residents are encouraged to the attend the summer town meeting, which will include time for questions.
“It will be back to normal,” he said.