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December 05, 2016
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Tusten zoning changes hearing

Residents of the Town of Tusten turned out for a public hearing on September 26 to speak out about the proposed rewrite of the town’s zoning code. The part of the code that would limit or ban high impact industrial uses, such as gas drilling, which is article 14, received some attention.

Planner Dr. William Pammer, who aided the zoning rewrite committee through the re-write process, said the committee would follow the progress of the two legal cases in the state working their way through the courts regarding gas drilling and zoning, and depending on the outcome, might change article 14 or delete it.

Chuck Hoffman, who previously has run for town supervisor, said that he thought article 14 was “being driven by outsiders,” and it could lead to lawsuits because it deprived residents of the mineral rights to their properties.

Sean McGuiness, superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River for the National Park Service, recommended that the committee follow the guidelines that are in the River Management Plan. He said, “I am encouraged to see that article 14 does say there will be no heavy industrial uses in the River District, and I hope that follows through regardless” of the fate of the rest of article 14.

Builder Charles Petersheim praised the “non-confrontational dialogue, which has been lacking in other towns,” relating to the issue. But, he added, “There is no reason that Tusten or Highland or Lumberland should be on the forefront of legal cases that are working their way through the courts” regarding zoning and gas drilling.

Resident Kevin Vertrees read from the draft supplemental generic impact statement, which was released on September 7 by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, which said any drilling company that wanted to drill in the town would be required “to indentify whether the proposed location of the well pad, or any other activity under the jurisdiction of the department conflicts with local land use laws, regulations.”
He said, “My reading of this is that New York State is going to support home rule, and it is important for [the committee] to continue on the path of putting some kind of process in place.”

Ned Lang, a local businessman who is running for town council, said there is a problem with the town’s comprehensive plan, which was approved in 2007, because it doesn’t contain elements that would encourage businesses to open in the town. Therefore, he said, the proposed zoning re-write, which flowed from the comprehensive plan, is anti-business and would therefore be negative for the town, because businesses generate more tax revenue than residents.

Referring to a group of five businesses in Tusten as “the stakeholders,” Lang said “Three of the five stakeholders in this town, if we came to this town to put our businesses in this town, we’d be told to go elsewhere. You just can’t outlaw certain businesses.”