TUSTEN, NY — At the Tusten town board meeting on Tuesday, August 13, the board members discussed and voted on becoming an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in actions involving municipal home rule in the court of appeals of the State of New York.
This pertains to a local law that was passed by the towns of Dryden and Middlefield banning gas drilling and other heavy industrial uses. However, the towns were sued in state Supreme Court, and the cases have been making their way through the appellate levels of court. The Supreme Court judges ruled in favor of the towns.
In 2012, the cases were appealed to the appellate court, and four members of the Tusten town board voted to file an amicus curiae brief in that case. The Appellate Court then also ruled in favor of the towns. Now, the cases are being taken to the New York Court of Appeals, which is the highest court, and again the board was considering a new amicus curiae or brief.
There was much discussion about whether or not the amicus curiae had to do with gas drilling. Both supervisor Carol Ropke Wingert and councilman Tony Ritter said that it is a case of home rule, and whether the town wants to enforce it. Wingert said, “The issue of this is not about gas drilling; as a board, if this community was pro-gas, this gives this board the power to change our zoning to it; it actually works for you. It’s giving your local board, with the input from its constituents, the chance to do what’s right for your community.”
Councilman Ned Lang said that he believes it is indeed about gas drilling. He said, “The state has a lot to say about what’s going on in the town, whether we like to have independent home rule or not—we do. This is about gas drilling, and I’m pro-gas drilling, I’ve been very clear about that.”
Ritter said, “This is not a state decision, this is a township decision. So if the townships want it, they can, if the townships don’t want it, that’s fine too. They’ve put it back in our hands, which then refers back to the comprehensive plan and the zoning plan, which is what the public worked on for a year and a half. So we’re listening to what the public wants.”
Lang responded, “What the public wants and what me as an individual land owner wants, doesn’t always congeal.”
After the discussion, the resolution was put to a vote and it passed 3-2, with Lang and councilman Norman Meyer dissenting. This means that the Town of Tusten, as amicus curiae, is supporting Dryden and Middlefield in their court rulings.
Along with this resolution, the board also voted on another contentious issue: casinos. The resolution was to support the enactments of a constitutional amendment authorizing Class III gaming in the State of New York, and to send a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo supporting his casino bill (see article on page 3). Wingert took a stand against casinos in Sullivan County but said, “The constituents that I talked to seem to be overwhelmingly in favor of casinos. Personally I am not for it, but I am going to vote yes.” All of the other board members voted yes, and the resolution passed.
The meeting ended with a presentation by Heather Jacksy, the associate planner for the Planning Division of Sullivan County, about the Sullivan County Waterfront Revitalization plan. This plan would put six new river access points in six towns stretching from Hancock to Port Jervis, of which Narrowsburg is one. Jacksy said that, right now, that spot would be at the Ten Mile River access, but that is up for discussion. The board members agreed that the Department of Environmental Conservation access point might be a better location. Overall, the revitalization plan intends to enhance the Upper Delaware River as a tourist attraction, complete with many amenities. Jacksy said that anyone in the community can get involved with the planning.