Airport Limits, Affordable Housing Fail At Chatham Town Meeting

By: Tim Wood

A hand count is taken at Saturday's annual town meeting at Veterans Field in Chatham. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – In a marathon six-hour town meeting Saturday, voters rejected proposals to limit use of Chatham Airport and failed to muster the votes necessary to set aside land on Middle Road for affordable housing.

More than 600 voters spread across the outfield at Veterans Field approved a $35 million operating budget, $9.5 million Monomoy Regional School District funding and increased the town's occupancy tax from 4 to 6 percent. The additional 2 percent in room tax revenue will be split between attainable housing and support for Chatham Elementary School.

Two articles dealing with 19 acres of town-owned land off Middle Road both failed to get the two-thirds votes required to pass. Article 62 sought to set aside four acres for affordable or attainable housing and place a perpetual conservation easement on the remaining 15 acres. It was backed by a majority of voters, but the 332-298 tally did not meet the two-thirds threshold. Article 63, which sought to place a conservation easement on the entire 19-acre parcel, failed on a voice vote.

Both airport articles failed by substantial margins. Article 56, which sought to reduce the landing area of the runway by 800 feet, failed on a voice vote. Article 57 proposed banning aircraft with wingspans larger than 49 feet from using the runway, and it was defeated 135 in favor to 287 against. Both were submitted by petition.

“This vote should be the final vote on the airport,” said resident Robert Wirtshafter. “Those who can't live with it, there's a simple solution: sell your house.”

Voters also approved a new waterways bylaw, appropriated $425,000 for a preschool family support program, added an historic preservation incentive to the town's zoning bylaw, and approved $1.5 million for site improvements at the town-owned Eldredge Garage property. A change to the Monomoy Regional School District agreement that requires Chatham and Harwich to cover the operating costs of each town's elementary school was approved, adding $739,747 to Chatham's district cost this year. Harwich town meeting approved the language change two weeks ago.

Watch our website and this week's paper for a full report on Chatham's annual town meeting.