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May 24, 2015
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Damascus barn burns

DAMASCUS, PA — An abandoned bard on de Court Road was burned to the ground on April 4, with dozens of firefighters responding to the scene at about 4:15 a.m.

According to fire officials the blaze is considered suspicious because there was no electricity in the barn, no equipment or machinery and there was no lightning reported in the area at the time of the blaze.

The barn was on property owned by Don Hamilton of Milanville.
Firefighters from the Beach Lake Fire Company were joined by emergency response workers from Welcome Lake Volunteer Fire, from Equinunk Volunteer Fire Company, White Mills Volunteer Fire Department Company, Damascus Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps an Lake Huntington Fire Department in New York.

Lake Huntington, a tanker from Equinunk Volunteer Fire Company, a mini-pumper from White Mills, and Damascus Ambulance.

The State Police Fire Marshall’s unit investigated the blaze, which was the second fire to be termed suspicious in the area in recent months.OSI: plenty of land for development

REGION — According to a new Open Space Institute (OSI) study, the Catskill region contains 10 times the land needed to support population expectations through 2035, meaning growth can occur without negatively affecting open space resources.

The findings were released earlier this week as part of “Private Lands, Public Benefits,” a study that identifies more than 520,000 acres of privately owned land without physical impediments, restrictions against development or important open space resources. Of the counties studied, Sullivan contains the greatest percentage (30 percent) of preferred growth area in the region, much of it concentrated in the center of the county, alongside existing infrastructure, like schools, roads, water and sewer services and emergency facilities.

The report’s 22 pages of maps, analysis and appendices could help officials in Sullivan, Ulster, Greene and Delaware counties as they work to attract sustainable development that will increase the region’s prosperity while protecting the wildlife, agricultural and recreational resources that make the Catskills a desirable place to live. Visit

Gas zoning could get NY court test
NEWYORK STATE — New York State law with regard to the ability of municipalities to zone natural gas drilling may soon get a test. The town of Middlefield, near Otsego Lake (Cooperstown’s water supply) recently moved to tighten its zoning laws to restrict gas drilling in certain areas, and leaseholders claiming it does not have the power to do so plan to sue. The case would be the first in New York to challenge the conventional wisdom that state law supersedes local ordinances with regard to where natural gas drilling is permitted, as championed by attorneys like Scott Kurkowski of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York State.

In Pennsylvania, however, which has a similar supersession clause to that in New York, courts have ruled that while towns cannot regulate how drilling is done, they can regulate where. New York law makes a similar distinction with regard to mining, and attorneys like Cooperstown attorney Michelle Kennedy say that New York’s laws should also be construed to give towns authority to prohibit drilling in certain locations. The Albany law firm of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna LLP has also pointed out that the New York constitution requires that any laws that impair the authority of local government must be passed in two separate legislative sessions, which is not the case with regard to the law in question.

Water Aid at Cooper Union

NEW YORK, NY — The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design will host Water Aid, a multi-media event celebrating the importance of water and those who work to preserve it, on Thursday, April 14, from 7 to 9 p.m. in The Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th St. It will feature the first annual Service to Sustainability Awards, recognizing the people and organizations who facilitate the adaptation of sustainability. This year journalist Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!; Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers; and artist and activist Yoko Ono will be honored for their commitment and leadership in helping to preserve the three percent of fresh water that sustains life on earth.

Performances will include an opening by jazz artist Kazzrie Jaxen, Laura Moran, stilt-walkers from NACL and more, and will be streamed live on the web. There will also be five giant video walls in The Great Hall presenting the conservation photography of J. Henry Fair and watershed photography of David Soete, and the work of media and video artists. The event is free to the public. Visit

Ten dogs, over 50 birds perish in White Mills blaze

WHITE MILLS, PA — A fire in a two-story structure behind the White Mills Pet Shop claimed the lives of 10 pet dogs and over 50 pet shop birds on Wednesday, March 30. A call to the fire went out at about 11:15 a.m., but by the time crews from White Mills, Honesdale, Hawley, Beach Lake and Seeleyville got there, the fire had already gone too far for the building to be saved. The building was owned by former Palmyra Township Supervisor Jim Mason and his wife Joann.
In addition to the animals, plumbing supplies, a bulldozer and many personal items were housed in the structure. and were destroyed.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but according to Jim Mason, who ran to the site after a customer in the pet shop reported a lot of smoke outside, the fire seemed to be coming from the center of the building rather than from the rear near a coal stove.