May 1, 2012 —
Some Democrats are charging that the Town of Callicoon Draft Comprehensive Plan is designed to facilitate gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, despite the results of a town-wide survey that suggest the residents don’t want industrial activity in the town.
A letter sent to the town board by the Town of Callicoon Democratic Committee and the Democratic Club lays out various concerns, including some that are specifically related to the treatment of gas drilling or other industrial uses in the draft plan.
Under one of the listed goals, the plan says the town should, “encourage within certain zones a broad range of allowable commercial and industrial uses, relying on performance standards to mitigate any environmental impacts and protect the community.” The letter countered that there is nothing in the responses in the survey to suggest residents want to attract any sort of industrial development to the town and, in the view of the Democrats, the opposite is true.
Another concern has to do with housing and the language in the plan that says the town should, “Review the zoning regulations on campgrounds, boarding homes, mobile home parks and other relevant sections, to ensure that they adequately address new housing needs that could accompany potential new large-scale industrial uses, and to protect the character of the town from any adverse impacts that could come from transient housing developments.”
To the Democrats, this sounded like an invitation to open so-called “man camps.” The Democrats wrote, “Only 26% of the town’s residents consider ‘more residential development’ ‘important’ or ‘very important’ and, in any event, ‘transient housing’ is not residential housing in the normal sense of the word.”
The Democrats have said that of those who wrote comments about gas drilling in the survey, 85% indicated they did not want it in the town.
But there are some ambiguities in the survey results. For instance, one question asked whether drilling was important, but did not indicate whether it was important to block it or to attract it.
At a meeting in Jeffersonville on April 25, planning consultant Nan Stolzenburg said that about 18% percent of town residents returned the survey when sent out in 2010, which was in line with the results of other towns. She also said that re-surveying the residents was not likely to achieve significantly different results. She added, however, that the surveys were just one way of getting input from the residents. Another would be public hearings, of which two will be held in the future.
Stolzenburg did her best to maintain neutrality on the issue, but she said in her opinion, the draft plan combined with the town zoning indicated that residents should be protected regardless of what kind of use came into the town. That, however, is quite different than a ban, which is what a number of residents are advocating.
The Democrats submitted numerous written comments to the Comprehensive Plan Committee, and Dave Kuebler, chair of the committee and a member of the town board, said the committee could not respond to them immediately, but would read them and respond in some way.
In a closing comment, Kuebler said, ‘There has been a lot of debate over this one issue. It’s a conundrum; it’s very difficult to make both sides happy. I don’t know if all these things should be put in the plan. We will take all of this into consideration and we will meet again.”