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Highland to hold hearing on proposed law

April 18, 2012

Alarmed at a process they perceive to be moving too swiftly, representatives of several hunting and fishing clubs in the Town of Highland turned out to raise concerns about a proposed zoning rewrite targeting industrial uses such as gas drilling at the town’s monthly meeting on April 10. The board listened to many of the remarks, but reminded speakers that the session was not a public hearing where comments are received. That hearing has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 4 in the Junior/Senior High School in Eldred.

“I prevail on everyone to let your voice be heard at that time,” said supervisor Andrew Boyar. Boyar urged residents to become informed by reading the 13-page document detailing the proposed Phase One draft of the zoning rewrite. The document was available at the meeting and can be obtained at the town hall or Sunshine Hall Free Library in Eldred.

In response to a charge that the process has moved too fast, Boyar said, “This hasn’t been a rush to judgment. The Town of Highland has been talking for years about what a small town can do to protect itself,” he said. “Other towns have considered the issue. The city of Albany passed this type of thing; Corning, Ithaca, towns throughout the Finger Lakes, the Towns of Tusten and Lumberland have all passed regulations on fracking.” Boyar reminded residents that the state has pre-empted towns from having any say in the regulation of the industry.

Some questioned whether the town should wait for the results of lawsuits filed against some towns for similar restrictions before proceeding. Matt Troy, vice president of the Highland Field and Stream Club (HFSC), asked the town to extend its moratorium while the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Delaware River Basin Commission complete their regulations.

James Hanson of Beaver Brook Rod and Gun Club expressed concern that the town is “confiscating land-use rights, zoning and code rights” and questioned the composition of the volunteer task force. “Even though you put it in the papers, everybody’s working. If somebody had called me, or my wife [Doreen Hanson is the Highland Town Clerk] had come home and said, ‘The town wants to take your gas and mineral rights away,’ I think we would have found the time to come to a meeting.”

HFSC president Fred Reber said he didn’t think large landowners were represented. Boyar said, “I’ve asked for months at every meeting for volunteers. Only four have stepped forward. When you ask for volunteers to work on this stuff, who shows up? No one. Only those willing to put in 30 to 40 hours of their own time.”