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August 21, 2014
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Why ‘wrongful taking’ does not apply

One of the biggest bugbears that has haunted the efforts of local towns to craft ordinances restricting high-impact industrial uses within their borders is the threat of lawsuits. Specifically, opponents of such ordinances maintain that if a town zones some property owners’ land so that industrial operations like hydro-fracking are not permitted, it amounts to a “wrongful taking:” that is, a government action has deprived property owners of the value of their land, and they must be compensated accordingly.  Read more

The issue at hand

At a public hearing on June 30, the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dGEIS) for the Sullivan County Multi-Municipal Task Force’s (MMTF) proposed road use and preservation program (RUP) came under heavy attack. While some important and legitimate points were raised, much of the discussion got diverted into a question that is beside the point: the question as to the potential impact of natural gas drilling on our area.  Read more

We don’t need no stinkin’ badges

Wayne Holbert has come back to the Town of Lackawaxen with his third application for an expansion of his quarry. The first occurred in 2005, when Holbert had been receiving notices of violation from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for expanding his operation beyond the five acres that is the state limit for “minor” non-coal mining operations. The same five acres is a legal limit under the town zoning ordinance and the River Management Plan (RMP) for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.  Read more

An unacceptable precedent

The Town of Cochecton is coming to the end of its comprehensive plan and zoning rewrite process. As noted in our March 3 editorial “Needed: a policy,” it has elected to handle the issue of gas drilling by ignoring it. Unfortunately, for at least one part of the town—the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River corridor—that’s just not good enough.

And there is an alternative.  Read more

Grassroots or Astroturf?

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently held a hearing in Pittsburgh to hear testimony from citizens “interested in the safety and environmental performance of hydraulic fracturing.” It gave short notice due to “programmatic issues,” but Energy in Depth (EID), an organization representing the independent oil and gas producers, was quick to respond.  Read more

Let’s talk

The pending sale of the Narrowsburg school property is happening at a time when the citizens of Tusten are intimately engaged with the question of their vision for their town. A comprehensive plan was completed in 2007, and this year a committee is engaged in a zoning rewrite. For this reason, even though the proposed plan for the property recently submitted by developer Ilwon Kang to the Town of Tusten Planning Board is highly preliminary, we don’t think it’s too soon to bring the townspeople into the conversation about it.  Read more

O pioneers

Something interesting is happening in Sullivan County. Local governments in small rural towns, towns with apparently limited resources, high levels of unemployment and incomes well below the state average, are taking extraordinary actions to take control over their own governance.  Read more

Putting a price on self government

Since we’ve been arguing for some time in favor of natural gas severance taxes for New York and Pennsylvania, you’d think we’d be delighted with a new bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate, SB 1100 ( tinyurl.com/5rpzv2q ), which would collect impact fees on production from unconventional gas wells.  Read more

Memorial Day—a journey of remembrance

Memorial Day started as Decoration Day, as proclaimed by General John A. Logan on May 30, 1868.  Read more

Taking care of the roads

Sullivan County’s Multi-Municipal Taskforce (MMTF) was formed in 2008 to create a legal framework that will allow towns to ensure that road damage caused by high-traffic activities is paid for by the companies that do the damage—not the taxpayer. Its efforts are now coming close to fruition: on Monday, May 16, copies of the draft GEIS, technical manuals and template laws for the system devised by the legal firm of Whiteman, Osterman, and Hanna and Delta Engineers were mailed to the member towns (Bethel, Callicoon, Cochecton, Delaware, Highland, Lumberland, Rockland and Tusten).  Read more