By Kaitlin Carney
GLEN SPEY The Town of Lumberland held a public meeting on July 28 at the Town Hall in Glen Spey to present a draft of the revised zoning regulations prepared by the Zoning Rewrite Committee.
The capacity crowd was asked to review the document and make comments or ask questions about it to the assembled rewrite committee. Also in attendance were consulting attorneys Helen and David Slottje, who weighed in on the rewrite as part of their work with environmental law with a concentration on the impact of extraction and resulting industrialization.
Supervisor Nadia Rajsz opened the meeting, and Zoning Committee Chair Lewis Powell laid out the ground rules for questions and comments, advising everyone to keep their comments to five minutes or under.
Charles Petersheim, owner of Catskill Farms, pondered in his opening questions how “Lumberland went from protecting individual property rights to asserting home rule to let us do whatever.”
He asked the committee “If you can ban gas drilling, why can’t you regulate it intelligently?”
Powell indicated that the draft zoning document “prohibits certain uses, but provides for a way to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals.”
Helen Slottje also responded to Petersheim’s question by indicating that towns are, by law, only able to prohibit and not to regulate. She indicated that towns are unable to “limit incompatible usages only,” and that regulations are more like a “bundle of sticks,” and must cover all uses.
“Protecting property rights is exactly what this zoning intends to do,” she closed to applause from those in attendance.
Petersheim also indicated that the “theory this zoning is based on is shaky at best,” to which David Slottje responded that the “highest court in New York State is the Appeals Court, and they have upheld challenges to the mining statute, which construes the same language in the mining context… there is not a single case that says that any town can’t do this.”
“After hearing the out of town attorneys try to frame this new zoning rewrite as ‘run-of-the-mill,’ I think the Town Board owes the town citizens a second opinion,” Petersheim said in a follow-up e-mail. “They really should get an independent review of this radical interpretation of home rule before it's too late and the town gets itself sued.”
The Slottjes referred to Chairman Powell and indicated that “anyone aggrieved has a safety valve and can and are encouraged to apply for a use variance.” Powell indicated that it can be addressed to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Susan Morley, a member of the Planning Board, commented that “this document is a lot of what we do presently. It is important to have more information, and important for people to have rules and regulations.”
Further discussion ensued regarding the process of the rewrite, which was done to mirror the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. The Committee reiterated that the rewrite was not a reaction to gas drilling, but a reaction to the need to have a document unified with the Comprehensive plan.
Resident Mario Abruzzi questioned what exactly was changed in the rewrite, and was advised that this was a “substantial rewrite” and the common practice of providing the old document with the new rewrite for comparison would have made the document extremely lengthy.
Attendees were advised that the document is available electronically and in hard copy at the Clerk’s Office. Zoning Board Chair Powell indicated that comments would also be accepted in writing before the public hearing and adoption of the rewrite, which is available at www.townoflumberland.org/pdf/zba/Draft_TB_PB_and_ZBA2_pics.pdf.