By Kaitlin Carney
GLEN SPEY The Lumberland Town Board convened a public hearing last week to allow the public to discuss proposed changes to the town’s zoning laws. A zoning rewrite was started after the completion of the town’s Comprehensive Plan in 2009.
A capacity crowd turned out to make comments on the changes as the committee enters the final rewrite stage.
Supervisor Nadia Rajsz thanked the zoning committee members for their time and gave special thanks to attorneys Helen and David Slottje of Ithaca, who consulted on the rewrite.
Many speakers, including Frank Kean who spoke first, specifically addressed the inclusion of Article 10 to outlaw heavy industrial usages and prohibit gas drilling and hydrofracking in the town.
“Corporate America is trying to take over everything… they can’t take our land. It is the most important asset we have locally. It’s not our generation I’m worried about,” said Kean, an Eldred CS math teacher for 38 years.
Other speakers touched on a variety of topics unrelated to gas drilling but just as pressing for the town.
Chad Martell, a local resident for 25 years and builder in the area, said his “main concern is five-acre zoning. People who want to stay here and live here, they can’t because of size. If a parcel meets specs and passes relevant tests, they should build. Decreasing the number of homes decreases the tax base and increases the tax burden.”
Karen Smyth of Pond Eddy encouraged the Town Board to “stay true to the Comprehensive Plan, especially the establishment of districts,” and to create, not smother, small business opportunities because residents would “happily greet economic development sensitive to the environment.”
Ron Thiele, a lifelong resident of Glen Spey, also touched on the five-acre zoning. “We don’t want to destroy the natural beauty of the land at all,” he said. “With increased acreage for zoning I think we’re putting an unfair tax burden on people.”
Rik Dilles, a carpenter in town, also spoke about how the increased acreage for building lots would affect residents: “I’d like to build my sons some homes right next to me,” and urged the board not to “regulate landowners like this. You guys are pushing it.”
Vinny Toretta, also of Lumberland, spoke of how he and his wife discovered the beauty of Glen Spey eight years ago but felt that the “landscaping requirements” of the proposed zoning laws “get into such finite details that it infringes upon property rights on the property I’m paying taxes for. I know it was a bear, but I think it gets too specific…”
Joette McLaughlin urged the board to support Article 10, and to “put people above profits, to ward off the predator before it has you. Fracking fluid is not safe for people who rely on drinking ground water from wells.”
Jack Comstock thanked the Zoning Rewrite Committee and the Town Board for “acting as stewards of the environment to protect life, liberty, and property. Rural heritage is what makes our area so special.”
David Wallace, a town resident for 20 years, reminded the board “whatever this industry has to say always has a twist with a nasty barb at the end. The fracking industry has held more meetings than you have to prepare.”
Charles Petersheim, a local builder, spoke of the amount of money his business has invested in the town and contributed to the tax base in building new homes. He asked contractors he works with regularly who were in attendance to stand up.
Petersheim wanted the board to not stifle local businesses with zoning legislation, and to allow for the growth potential that would keep these contractors employed.
“I am absolutely invested in this community,” Petersheim said. “There is no gas in Lumberland. This is all theater, a kind of dog and pony show. This is so much better than Tusten, where it was all about gas drilling.… I think you all forgot about us hardworking small businesses. You need to be prepared to hear some disagreement. We do not need more impediments to business.”
Non-residents were also permitted to speak, with individuals from neighboring towns and even out of state speaking out.
Karen London of Bethel thanked the board and as a neighbor called Lumberland a “shining light for other towns in Sullivan County. We don’t want to put out a welcome mat for these industries borders are man-made; damage done will not sit above one set of borders.”
Carol Roig from the Town of Highland said, “I do not take the privilege of speaking here lightly. No town can contain the damage. Marcellus Shale may not be under this town but the Utica Shale goes all the way to the Hudson. The democratic process is alive. When you lease your land for gas drilling you are not exercising your rights you are signing them away…”
Ed Gavella pointed out that “there are nine other articles besides Article 10 [in the proposed zoning changes.]”
He added, “An historical article will force people to build with specific colors; Milford tried it and it didn’t work. Having to survey trees on your property will add an additional $6-7,000 cost for the landowner. Adding a green buffer will cost an additional $6-10,000.00 for the landowner. I’m in the landscaping business… this is great for my business, but why do you need a green buffer if you have five acre zoning? There’s an article where you’d have to apply to have a home business. We can’t, under the guise of Article 10, push this [other] zoning legislation through...”