The town of Summit is holding a public hearing tonight on extending its moratorium on heavy industrial work, signaling a continued trend toward opposing the controversial hydrofracking process in Schoharie County towns.
The town this summer enacted a six-month moratorium on “heavy industrial uses” that’s set to expire Friday, and the extension is proposed to provide more time to complete a review of new land-use policies.
Town Supervisor Harold Vroman said the Town Board held two work sessions so far on a zoning code, a first for the town, and more time is needed to ensure it adequately protects property owners.
In draft form, the new regulations prohibit heavy industrial uses or any other work that would “constitute a nuisance” because of “odor, dust, smoke, toxic or noisome fumes, radiation, gas, noise, potential groundwater contamination, vibration or excessive light” and high volume truck traffic.
The draft zoning law would ban chemical manufacturing, natural gas extraction, petroleum extraction, large-scale mining, oil refineries, natural gas processing plants, petroleum and coal processing, coal mining, steel manufacturing, foundries and a list of other activities that could cause a nuisance, according to town documents.
Vroman said townspeople have expressed varying opinions about the controversial process of drawing natural gas from the Marcellus shale that sits beneath part of New York, Pennsylvania and several others states. Some, he said, are “adamantly against it,” while others are not.
For his part, Vroman said he doesn’t expect the hilly town to attract natural gas drillers if the process is ultimately approved by New York state, which regulates it.
“I’m not so sure that it’s even going to be in the town of Summit,” Vroman said.
Even if it’s unlikely, he said the town two years ago approved a road preservation law after he traveled to Pennsylvania.
“I talked to a supervisor who has fracking. He said the main thing you want to do is make sure you have road-use laws in place so that they don’t come in and tear your roads up and leave them,” Vroman said.
The town of Sharon has already revised its land-use code in a way that would make it difficult for hydrofracking to take place, and the town of Blenheim recently instituted a moratorium on heavy industrial work. The town of Schoharie recently approved changes in its land-use regulations, which town Supervisor Gene Milone said would require a variance from any entity looking to conduct heavy industrial work.
He said “you can’t get any closer” to a ban than the town’s revised regulations. An effort to conduct heavy industrial work in the town, under the regulations, requires a variance from the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, Milone said.
“The health and safety of our constituents is first and foremost, as far as the fracking issue is concerned,” he said.
It’s not clear yet whether local laws will have an effect on hydrofracking once the state completes regulations — the state, not local governments, holds oversight on the process.
Summit’s public hearing will take place during its monthly board meeting at 7:30 p.m.