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No government intervention needed

February 2, 2012

In an article printed in the January 19 edition of The River Reporter, Sullivan County Commissioner of Planning and Environmental Management Luiz Aragon made a case for increased zoning restrictions to protect our rural landscape from shrinking lots. A visit to the town hall in Lumberland illustrates that the lots are not shrinking—just changing. Town subdivision maps from the turn of the 19th century show a town of equal or greater patchwork. The lots today are a reflection of the changes of 100 years of history and economy—with some lots larger and some smaller. Property lots near roads and business typically get smaller and those further away get larger.

We have seen an influx in population of second home ownership but the urban “invasion” is traveling slowly (four percent estimated increase in population for the Catskills as a whole between the years 2011 and 2035—Open Space Institute Report, 2011). The report, titled “Private Lands, Public Benefits: Open Space Resources and Preferred Growth Areas in the Catskills,” illustrates not only is the Catskill region not in jeopardy of over-development, it is in some areas seeing a significant shrinkage. Delaware County is expected to shrink 23% by 2035.

It will come as a surprise to the Zoning Rewrite Committee of Lumberland that the Open Space Institute ranked Lumberland seventh in a list of 75-plus townships “preferred for growth” in the Catskill region. Tusten is number one; Highland is number five.

The cost of unnecessary government intervention is personal property rights. The purchase of property represents investment, whether it is to be realized in five years or 500, and this should be protected. Arbitrary land-grabbing by government in the name of scenery that isn’t threatened is just NIMBY politics. I appreciate the notion of a conservation development but it is wrong to mandate them.

Hall Smyth
Lumberland, NY