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Lumberland debates new zoning; drilling and development key issues

December 14, 2011

“No one wants drilling in Lumberland,” Catskill Farms developer Charles Petersheim told a standing-room-only crowd at the Lumberland Town Hall on December 12. Judging by the multitude of comments delivered at the Town of Lumberland’s public hearing on its proposed zoning re-write, opposition to natural gas extraction and the industrialization that accompanies it is undeniably strong.

But other sections of the proposed zoning have raised concern among some who feel that new rules related to lot development size and landscaping are too restrictive.

Resident Chad Martell, who objected to a proposed change from two- to five-acre lot development, said, “The less homes we allow, the less tax base we’re going to have, which will increase the tax burden on the people of the town.” Others agreed and cited additional objections to specific restrictions related to tree removal and replacement.

Several commentors asked for more flexibility in the proposed regulations. Debra Conway, a resident of Barryville, pointed out that the re-write includes flexibility in the form of waivers, which can be applied for. “These are reasonable people who have set up reasonable recourses for reasonable argument,” she said. “They’re setting a standard and if it imposes a burden, you have the right to appeal.”

On the topic of natural gas, many applauded the inclusion of Article 10 pertaining to limits on industrial uses within the town. Peter Comstock, head of the Homestead School, presented a letter to the town board from a Manhattan attorney with 35 years of litigation experience who has offered to defend the town pro bono in the event that the zoning is legally challenged. “The zoning you have proposed strikes the right balance and provides the growth that is sensible and mindful of our rural integrity,” he said.

Comstock’s son, Jack, made an eloquent plea for preservation of the town’s rural heritage, which he defined as the beauty and health of the natural environment. “Our rivers, streams, forests and farm fields are our lifeblood,” he said. “They nourish our souls and provide us with the diminishingly rare gifts of clean air to breathe, pure water to drink and responsibly raised farm products to eat. I commend the town board for their efforts to protect this heritage. Is it not our responsibility to stand up to exploitation and to protect the health and prosperity of this town’s people?”