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December 06, 2016
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Towns bring legal experts to region

Two New York towns—Highland and Lumberland—have teamed up to learn how to pursue possible legal protections against the impacts of natural gas extraction and have invited two legal firms specializing on the topic to present information to the public on February 19 at the Eldred Central School.

“Gas drilling is a hot topic right now,” said Glen Goldstein, member of the Highland Planning Board and chair of Highland’s new energy and environment committee. “Our job is to get smarter and to report back to the town what we learn.

Our first step is to bring in two lawyers with very different opinions, who specialize in this field. We’re not trying to pick a winner, rather, to listen and to learn everything we can. We’ll also be looking at whether any changes need to be made to the town’s master plan as it pertains to this issue.”

A public session will be held in the morning with lawyers from the Community Environmental Defense Council and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, followed by a town work session later that day. “We welcome other towns to attend and learn along with us,” added Goldstein.

The Town of Highland has also been involved in an effort to improve access to town businesses. “What can change so that businesses can thrive in this county?” asked Sullivan County planning commissioner Luiz Aragon at the Highland town meeting on January 11. It’s a question that Aragon and others are attempting to address with a new signage strategy to promote local business called the Business Wayfinding System.

“People must be able to find the businesses,” said Aragon. “We’re not talking about uncontrolled signage, but a system that is uniform, understandable and useful.” A team consisting of the Barryville Chamber of Commerce, Sullivan Renaissance and Highland Renaissance has been working with town resident and designer Dorene Warner to develop the signage.

“We did a lot of research to see what other towns have done, with a strong local model at Bethel Center for the Performing Arts,” said Aragon. “The businesses will pay to be on the signs, which will help to maintain them.”

Carol Roig of Highland Renaissance added, “Signage kept coming up in earlier visioning sessions, the issue of capturing casual visitors, since the byway is a main artery into the area. If your business is not on the byway, how do people find it?”

Roig said the team tackled the design and conceptual challenge to make the signage work without adding visual clutter. “Dorene has come up with a design that is functional and elegant, is in keeping with other design work that’s gone on before and respects the rural character of the town.” Town supervisor Andy Boyar applauded the effort and the board gave conceptual approval to the signage.

Boyar summarized the board’s accomplishments of the past year. “We adopted our 2011 budget without fanfare or acrimony and accomplished our mission of keeping taxes level,” he said. Other items included upgrading highway equipment with four major acquisitions, settling a three-year highway contract and more.

Boyar also applauded the town for continuing to be “a beacon of light and a good example for all. Democracy is founded upon the principal of debate and the free exchange of ideas. We might not be unanimous on every issue, but we will always be courteous and respectful. Our track record for the past year shows that you can deal with all types of issues, sometimes with strong opinions on either side, and still come up with good answers.”

For information on any of the above, contact Boyar at 845/557-8901.