We were here. Where were you?
May 3, 2012 —
In last week’s article “Highland to hold hearing on proposed law,” it was reported that some landowners are complaining that the Town of Highland, NY is moving too swiftly to pass Local Law #3-2012, a zoning amendment that would ban high-impact industrial uses like horizontal hydrofracking throughout the town.
In fact, this law has been a long time coming. The town set up a task force on natural gas drilling in 2008, and also enacted its first moratorium that year. In 2010, there were several town events on gas drilling, including a heavily attended town meeting in September at which the comments were virtually unanimous against it. Also in 2010, the Highland Committee on Energy and Environment (CEE) was formed, which in February of 2011 co-sponsored, with Lumberland’s CEE, the initial meeting at which attorneys David and Helen Slottje gave the presentation that provided the template for Tusten and Lumberland’s similar ordinances—which have already passed.
In March of 2011, the Highland Town Board approved a motion to request the Slottjes’ assistance in reviewing and formulating its comprehensive plan and any pertinent zoning modifications (March 13, 2011, “Highland makes headway on gas protections.”) In April of 2011, another moratorium on gas drilling was approved by the board on the basis of overwhelming support expressed at a public hearing just prior to the vote (April 20, 2011, “Highland approves moratorium on high impact industrial uses.”) And on page 45 of the town’s comprehensive plan—for which a task force was formed in early 2011, and which passed in March 2012 after a lengthy public process (October 19, 2011, “Highland hearings scheduled”)—we find the goal: “Define and prohibit industrial uses that compromise the natural resources in the town, specifically the high quality water resources.”
In short, there was plenty of time and opportunity to provide input for those who wished to do so.
But this type of complaint—and its lack of grounds—is something we’ve seen a lot of lately. It was made against both the Tusten and Lumberland zoning rewrites as well, for instance. Frequently in this kind of case the charge is made that, because the speakers were not involved in the process up to the point they started complaining, that process must be undemocratic; in extreme cases, you will hear people saying that the whole process happened “behind closed doors.”