Although I had a frustrating experience as co-chair of the Cochecton Zoning Advisory Committee (see the TRR article in the February 23 issue), it was not a total failure. I hoped to convince the pro-gas drilling members by patiently exposing them to information they may not have been aware of. They chose to reject our facts and rely on assurances from the gas industry. I knew it would be nearly impossible to change their minds, so I reassured myself that there was a second purpose for the committee. We used it as an opportunity to present the town board at length with those facts without being limited to the usual five-minute presentations during public comment. Now the responsibility for protecting the town rests again with the board members, and they can’t say they haven’t heard anything negative about the dangers of drilling, fracking and heavy industrialization of the town.
The supposed compromise offered by the other committee members was not serious because it amounted to regulation of the gas industry, not allowed under New York law. We proposed a temporary moratorium leading to a temporary zoning ban on heavy industrial land use, which would gain time to ascertain whether drilling could be done safely. I still believe that was a reasonable compromise offer. Now Cochecton may be heading into that toxic storm without an umbrella, or is driving into it in a convertible with the top down, thinking it can stop and put it up after we all get soaked. Even with home rule now possible, once permits are issued they cannot be preempted by zoning and it will be too late. I still hope the Cochecton Town Board will find the courage to meet its responsibility to support the comprehensive plan and preserve the rural nature of the town.