Cochecton v. the State of New York

By LINDA DROLLINGER
Posted 3/18/20

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — By a vote of 4 to 1, the Cochecton Town Board adopted a resolution at its March 11 meeting requesting the withdrawal of a renewable energy amendment from New York …

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Cochecton v. the State of New York

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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — By a vote of 4 to 1, the Cochecton Town Board adopted a resolution at its March 11 meeting requesting the withdrawal of a renewable energy amendment from New York State’s proposed budget. Paul Salzberg cast the single “nay.”

The resolution addressed three central issues: the pre-eminence of New York State’s constitutional home rule governance, public health and safety as related to renewable energy projects, and the economic benefit of renewable energy projects.

Constitutional home rule grants local governments the authority to exercise self-government. According to the New York State Bar Association, “The so-called ‘home rule’ article, contains protections for local government that are more extensive than those in many other states.”

Constitutional home rule is probably most apparent in local land development and zoning ordinances, like the comprehensive renewable energy ordinance addressing solar and wind energy that Cochecton adopted two years ago.

On February 21, Gov. Cuomo proposed a budget amendment designed to dramatically expedite permitting and construction of renewable energy projects. The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, if adopted, would create a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting “to improve and streamline the process for environmentally responsible and cost-effective siting of large-scale renewable energy projects across New York while delivering significant benefits to local communities.”

All board members agreed that the amendment represents an incursion on constitutional home rule. However, Salzberg objected to some of the resolution’s supporting claims, saying they have no basis in scientific or empirical evidence, and for that reason, he could not support it.

During the public comment period, UDC Chair Larry Richardson asked supervisor Gary Maas where he had obtained the resolution language. Maas replied that he had received it via email, although he didn’t say from whom.

In other business, the board discussed an anticipated 18-month delay in repair of guardrails along State Route 97 between Callicoon and Narrowsburg. There was speculation that this delay may have cost Route 97 National Geographic’s “Most Scenic Byway” designation, a title it has enjoyed in years past.

There was also discussion about upcoming repair projects to interstate bridges at Skinners Falls, Cochecton and Callicoon. Maas said the collective impact of those projects could have a negative economic impact on the area, in addition to causing considerable inconvenience to those who use the bridges daily. All municipalities involved have urged the NY-PA Interstate Bridge Commission to offer one-lane alternating travel, as opposed to bridge closure, during the projects.

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