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Builder questions Lumberland board

September 28, 2011

Known for the high-end cottage-style homes built by his company in Sullivan and Ulster counties, Catskill Farms developer Charles Petersheim has lately emerged as a vocal opponent of the Town of Lumberland’s current zoning re-write process, which has been underway for two years.

Petersheim’s concerns have ranged in focus, revolving around the process, which stems from the town’s required update of its comprehensive plan, to various individuals involved, including members of the zoning re-write committee, the town supervisor, Nadia Rajsz and advisory attorneys Helen and David Slottje of the Community Environmental Defense Council.

Petersheim is a resident of the adjacent Town of Highland who owns substantial acreage in the Town of Lumberland and successfully sells to clients seeking the high-quality rural environment afforded by the region. He frequently faces a volley of impassioned responses from town residents who say they want to protect the quality of life that led them to purchase their Upper Delaware region properties.

At the latest town board meeting on September 14, the developer’s pointed questions were directed to the town board and to town attorney Danielle Jose-Decker. Petersheim drew attention to a lawsuit recently filed by Anschutz Exploration Corporation against the Town of Dryden in upstate New York that is pursuing zoning to prohibit heavy industrial use within the town’s borders.

The suit is the first to test the legal implications of such initiatives. Officials in Dryden and more than a dozen other local governments in New York State, who are pursuing similar prohibitions, are moving forward on the premise that while current law prohibits towns from regulating drilling, it does not regulate whether it can take place or where that might occur.

Petersheim asked whether Jose-Decker agrees with the legality of such prohibited uses.

“The courts have upheld prohibitions with respect to mining and adult facilities,” responded Jose-Decker. “The state regulates different industries, and I believe that the town has the power to prohibit and I believe that’s what the proposed zoning code seeks to do. I would also add that there is an area for an aggrieved entity, whether it be a person or a corporation, to seek a variance from the zoning board of appeals, and also the avenue of Article 78, in the event that someone wanted to challenge the decision of the ZBA or the town, so there is redress for someone who feels aggrieved by the zoning code as proposed.