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Looking back on NY 2012

Residents of the Town of Highland applaud a gas drilling ban.

By Fritz Mayer
December 26, 2012

NEW YORK STATE — In Sullivan County, 2012 started out with six newly elected legislators out of a total of nine. The newcomers came in looking to make changes, and one of the first shake-ups was they wanted to put the tourism contract out to bid, after the contract had been awarded to the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA) every year for a decade.

Some of the 300 members of SCVA raised howls of protest, and SCVA was awarded the contract for 2012, but they would have to compete for the bid for the next year. SCVA competed against a new organization called Sullivan County Tourism and Promotion, but ultimately a majority of the legislature voted for SCVA to retain the contract.

Another big development was that the legislature voted to override the Albany-imposed 2% property tax increase. With the county facing a deficit that ranged into the millions and with costs, such as Medicaid, healthcare and pensions continuing an upward spiral, lawmakers saw no alternative but to move toward a double-digit tax increase--an outcome they avoided by a hair (see article at left).

In response to continuing spending increases dictated by Albany, several lawmakers, with Cindy Gieger leading the way, held a campaign to educate the public about “unfunded mandates.”

Also in 2012, the deal to try to lure a big box store to the former Apollo Plaza site fell through. Executives at a company called Chancellor Livingston had pleaded with the new lawmakers to move forward with the project. However once they finally voted to do so, Chancellor Livingston backed out of the deal, reportedly because a suitable retail tenant could not be found to inhabit the new mall once it was built.

Lawmakers then changed course and struck a deal with developer Butch Resnick, who planned to install a grocery store in part of the existing mall.

As in the previous four years, gas drilling was a major story in 2012, with numerous towns in the state adopting zoning regulations that effectively ban gas drilling and other forms of “high-impact industrial activities,” and other towns adopting resolutions that invite drilling.

In Sullivan County, those who banned drilling were the towns of Tusten, Lumberland, Bethel and Highland. Those who invited it were Delaware and Fremont.

The question of whether the drilling bans are legal is still working its way through the courts.