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Lawyers wade into Callicoon comp plan battle; Slottjes ask county planning commissioner to reject town’s submission

By Fritz Mayer
January 30, 2013

As officials of the Town of Callicoon move forward to adopt a controversial comprehensive plan, two prominent environmental attorneys are acting on behalf of a “number of residents” of the town.

Helen and David Slottje of the Community Environmental Defense Council, who have advised numerous towns in the state about the adoption of bans or moratoria regarding hydraulic fracturing, have written an 11-page letter to Sullivan County planning commissioner Luiz Aragon, urging the rejection of the town’s submission for what is called a 239 Review.

Some town actions regarding zoning require such a review by the county planning department, during which the county determines whether the action will have any adverse intercommunity impacts. In the letter, the Slottjes assert that the town has committed several procedural errors in the comprehensive plan process. Perhaps chief among them is that, according to the letter, supervisor Tom Bose filled out an Environmental Assessment Form, but he did not do so at a public meeting, and he did not have authorization from the town board to do so.

The letter also charges that the town failed to submit to the county a “full statement of such proposed action” as required by law. Further, the letter charges that the proposed comprehensive plan, “as presently drafted, is not in the best interest of the people of the town (as compared to a minority of large landowners).”

It’s not entirely clear what the result would be if the county rejected the submission, or determined that there would be negative county-wide, intercommunity impacts, because town boards are free to ignore the recommendations or decisions of the county planning board.

The proposed comprehensive plan has been the subject of much debate in the town, and according to surveys, a petition and public hearings, a majority of residents are opposed to the plan because it invites gas drilling and fracking into the town.

Bose did not immediately respond to a request for comment; nor did Aragon, who is leaving the county government to accept a position in Westchester County on February 11.

There will be a public hearing on the plan on Wednesday, February 6 at 7 p.m. at the town hall in Jeffersonville.