In ongoing efforts to receive feedback from all concerned parties, the Town of Highland Town Board has scheduled two more opportunities to have questions answered and to offer public comment on proposed Local Law 3, which would ban high-impact industrial activity such as that associated with natural gas drilling, and recent revisions made to the draft.
In addition to the series of meetings and first public hearing already conducted, a work session was held on June 7, during which town attorney Michael Davidoff addressed concerns expressed by interested parties.
While the latest changes to the proposed law were not significant enough from a legal point of view to require a second public hearing according to Davidoff, the town board decided to schedule the additional opportunities to gather public input before the final vote is held.
An informational session with Davidoff has been scheduled for July 3 at 7 p.m. to explain adjustments to the version presented at the last public hearing. A second public hearing will be held on July 9, at 7 p.m. at the Eldred Central School in Eldred. Both sessions were approved at the town board meeting on June 12, where some in attendance expressed their views.
Pam Chergotis, a full-time resident at York Lake in Barryville, argued in favor of Local Law 3. “We have tremendous natural resources here and if we don’t adopt this local law to protect us against hydrofracking, we’re going to lose all that,” she said. “I have FOILed the comments, and overwhelmingly, the taxpayers of the Town of Highland want a ban against hydrofracking. If this were a democracy, this law would be passed tonight.”
Jim Hanson, of Beaver Brook Rod and Gun Club, spoke in support of changes that came out of the work session. “I have to commend the board for taking out all the extra garbage that we found offensive as larger property owners that would have affected us,” he said. “My concern has always been about having private property rights protected. That’s all the hunting clubs are looking for.”
Town supervisor Andrew Boyar explained that the work session resulted in some changes to the proposed law with the guidance of Davidoff. A severability clause, allowing for any section or provision of the proposed zoning to be rewritten and voted on without re-writing the entire document, will be retained as part of Local Law 3.
“We came up with a better product to move forward with,” Boyar said. “I received a lot of emails saying ‘don’t wait, move forward.’ But I want there to be a demonstration that the people spoke and there were certain concerns and the town board was as responsive as it could be.” Boyar thanked the board members for reviewing the approximately 500 comments that were submitted.
Highland Concerned Citizens is urging those who favor Local Law 3 to make their support known to town officials. In an email, they wrote, “Let our elected representatives know that we expect their final vote to reflect what is right for the town as a whole: to protect the health and safety of all residents of the Town of Highland by banning natural gas drilling.”
Comments can still be submitted up until the public hearing on July 9. The proposed law can be seen at townofhighland ny.com/index.php, or at the Sunshine Hall Library, or the town clerk’s office in Eldred. The final vote has not been set, although it could take place at the town meeting on July 10.
“If we’re ready to go and pull the trigger, we’ll do it,” said Boyar.