Town of Highland officials on July 9 renewed efforts to keep decisions about local land use in the hands of local residents. The town board approved a resolution to join in a “friends of the court” (amicus curiae) action in support of two upstate towns where proponents of natural gas drilling have challenged local zoning ordinances that ban it.
The towns of Dryden, in Tompkins County, and Middlefield, in Otsego County, have already had these ordinances upheld in state Supreme Court and a recent Appellate Division rulings. The complainants, Norse Energy Corporation and the Cooperstown Holstein Association, have renewed their appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
Highland, Lumberland and Tusten were among 53 New York towns, villages and cities that filed similar amicus curiae petitions in the appellate court decision.
The Town of Ulysses, in Tompkins County, which organized the earlier petition action, sought Highland’s continued support.
While the controversy over fracking for natural gas prompted the original actions, in a June 12 letter Ulysses supervisor Elizabeth Thomas noted that their legal brief takes no position on fracking. “Rather, the brief is about a municipality’s legal right to decide for itself, now and in the future, whether gas drilling (or any other land use for that matter) is an appropriate use for its citizens.”
Thomas further stated that Highland’s action would be at no cost to the town as Ulysses “has secured the funding to cover the legal cost…. ”
The Natural Resources Defense Council, for the Catskill Mountainkeeper, has also petitioned in the case.
Highland Supervisor Andrew Boyar introduced the resolution, which was passed without further comment or opposition.
In other business, Boyar asked resident Susan Wade to be patient, saying that the town is working on resolving her complaint about a neighbor’s lawn, which she said has not been mowed in three years. Wade said that prospective buyers have rejected her home because of the neighboring property. Boyar and code enforcement officer Dave Keebler said they have contacted the unnamed neighbor.
The board also heard Carol Roig of the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development detail plans for the August 10 Eldred kickoff of a year-long North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) program, the “The Weather Project.” The kickoff, opposite town hall, will feature a variety of weather-related exhibits, music and other entertainment. For more details, visit www.NACL.org . To read a story about the Weather Project, go to page 29.
Tuesday’s meeting began with a moment of silence for the 19 firefighters recently killed in fighting an Arizona brush fire; and for Amanda Morabito, 17, of Yulan who died in a July 6 automobile accident in Lumberland, in which her 16 year-old sister Ashley was also seriously injured.
The girls’ father, James Morabito, is a town employee, and both Boyar and highway superintendent Tom Ebers said they hoped neighbors would reach out to the family as they dealt with Amanda’s death and Ashley’s recuperation and rehabilitation.