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Taking another look in Lumberland

August 4, 2011

Although the schoolyard taunts from Mr. Comstock and his gang definitely sting, the democratic process typically demands more moderate discourse and even dissent, which has been sorely missing from the Lumberland’s zoning rewrite process. This process can best be described as “all for one, and one for all,” for better and worse.

I say that without taking anything away from the hard work and commitment of the individuals involved. It’s an extraordinary achievement.

Lumberland’s zoning rewrite concerning heavy industrial uses is premised on an expanded definition of home rule, or more simply, what towns can regulate vs. what the state regulates. The attorneys from Binghamton have assured the town that small towns across the state can individually regulate gas drilling, each in their own way.

Frankly, I just don’t buy it. Maybe it will be true, but at the moment it’s a gray area of law that needs better definition. The law gets defined more clearly by someone suing someone. I don’t think Lumberland, which has zero leases currently signed, needs to be that guinea pig. And I also am more than a little concerned that this novel legal theory is being presented as run-of-the-mill zoning. It’s not. Zoning that possibly puts Lumberland on a collision course with a courtroom is not smart zoning.

I couldn’t agree more with their characterization that the Lumberland Concerned Citizens is a “tiny organization”—that’s why I think it’s dangerous to lull our little towns into thinking that their legal exposure for new anti-drilling zoning will be covered by the fund raising of these organizations. It’s a fantasy that could morph into municipal bankruptcy very quickly. Higher taxes, anyone?

I encourage the town of Lumberland to get a full, external, independent review of their new zoning rewrite. That’s the least they can do for their constituents.

Charles Petersheim
Eldred, NY