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Delaware’s troubling new law

By Liam Murphy
August 7, 2013

At a special meeting of the town board this past Wednesday, the Town of Delaware passed controversial zoning amendments that have attracted of a lot of news coverage and letters in this and other local newspapers. Despite the controversy and public concern, no public comment was allowed at the meeting. The residents in attendance, who have devoted so much time to the issues raised by these amendments, did not deserve this high-handedness.

The history of these amendments has been one of doublespeak. Perhaps that’s to be expected when the town planner is a paid spokesman for the gas industry. Amendments that drastically weakened noise regulation were sold to us as amendments that strengthened noise regulation. Amendments that essentially do away with zoning for large areas of the River Corridor were sold to us as changes that would make the law clearer. The Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management got it exactly right in its letter to the board: The amendments “create more confusion than currently exists in the code.” Why yes, because we needed more clarity in our law.

As required by state law, the board on Wednesday adopted a resolution stating its reasons for not accepting the modifications the county recommended. The county said that the new law “creates a complicated process for a landowner, developer, or planning board member and therefore more potential for multiple interpretations and more business for the Zoning Board of Appeals.” This is exactly what architect and Delaware resident Buck Moorhead has been saying for many months. The carefully reasoned response of the town? They think that “there is sufficient clarity and consistency in the amendments so as to ensure compliance with the Upper Delaware River Management Plan.” This doesn’t respond to the county’s concern at all. It is completely beside the point. Maybe the board’s statement of reasons is not doublespeak. Let’s just call it evasive.