After several years of consideration and work, Chester just received the copy the a final proposed Ward Map last Thursday, showing how the ward districts would be drawn. After calling a last-minute Special Meeting, considering what those district lines entailed, officials and some residents noticed what they think are significant problems. Chief among those issues are some divisions of water and sewer districts which would be split in two Wards. While officials were notified that an official Public Hearing was not an absolute requirement, Supervisor Bob Valentine along with all other board members, seeking maximu transparence with residents, felt that there would not be time to get input from professionals and get notice out to residents of a Public Hearing within the single week they have to pass a resolution that would accept the map and enable the ward system to be implemented now, especially since the Special Meeting they were able to hold after less than a day's notice from when the map came in only resulted in 8 people from the community being present. Board member Brandon Holdridge, who had been liaison for assembly of the map explained that the legal requirement from the county's perspective was to divide the town into nearly equal parcels that as best followed natural layout and precisely ended up with equal population in each ward. Board members debated whether the division that split water and sewer between two wards might cause controversy with each ward representative trying to show the best outcome for his/her group. Resident Tom Becker, former Water Commissioner of the Village of Chester emphasized "That should not matter. They should just do what is right and needs to be done." The board agreed that politics should not matter in these kinds of decisions, but that sometimes it does.
By the end of the meeting it was decided "Let's form a Commission", get all the details from professionals and figure out if relatively minor changes might solve the water and sewer district divisions. Board members vowed to continue with transparency, post ALL relevant information on the town's website, promote and hold a Public Hearing with plenty of notice and ensure that all are onboard with the map's design when implemented. Board members will then bring remaining concerns to County Planning and the Board of Elections to determine what changes can realistically be made.
It is not unusual for a town to have reservations and ask for minor revisions in a Ward Plan, but there are the conflicting concerns anticipated of residents who may be frustrated that it is taking too long to implement, and that if acceptance of the map doesn't coincide with an election, they coud be faced with holding an expensive Special Election. Another reservation voiced was concern over reading the basic ward map and that residents would be able to understand its implications if it were printed much larger with details and roads and streets shown.
All of the Town's information to date is posted under Announcements/Public Hearing on the Town of Chester's website: PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE – Ward District Boundaries – Town of Chester, Orange County New York! (chester-ny.gov)