ZONING LAWS

Zoning laws are critically important in providing guidance and discipline in preparing for major transformations of a community facing a major influx of industrialization through high volume hydrofrackied gas drilling operations.  Many rural communities are almost totally equipped to cope with the transformations that occur, especially unanticipated environmental consequences and extraordinary pressures exerted on infrastructure — not to mention exorbitant costs involved.

To begin,  the link to the official New York State Guidelines governing enforcement of  zoning laws follows:

http://www.dos.ny.gov/LG/publications/Zoning_Enforcement.pdf
Following are examples of zoning issues that have affected Oxford Village and Town, and which have far-reaching implications for the entire Oxford community.

First is a statement by Paul Brennan, member of the Research Committee for Oxford Visionaries, presented to the Town Board on February 13, 2013.  Although the Town Board did not respond as adequately as Mr. Brennan had requested, the statement illustrates the issues involved in Oxford and elsewhere — issues that boards typically neglect to address until it is too late.

Examine the quality and extent of the issues raised — issues that are probably common to villages and towns across the Southern Tier of New York and elsewhere.

 Paul Brennan

Research Committee

Oxford Visionaries

P. O. Box 777

Oxford NY 13830

info@OxfordVisionaries.org

February 13, 2013

 

Mr. Lawrence Wilcox

Town of Oxford Supervisor and Chair of the Chenango CountyBoard of Supervisors

c/o Jim Hemstrought, Oxford Town Clerk

P. O. Box 271

OxfordNY13830

townofoxford@stny.rr.com

 

Copies: MembersTown Board, Town Planning Board, Village Board, Village Planning Board

 

Dear Mr. Wilcox,

As you know two local events have captured the attention of many observers outside Oxford.  The first was the Village of Oxford’s recent zoning amendment prohibiting hydraulic fracturing.  The second was the ChenangoCounty Planning Board’s earlier denial of the Village’s zoning amendment of clarification.  Last Monday the New York City Gotham Gazette wrote a long article on these events.  The author interviewed you both in your County and Town capacities.

Our research committee is planning a series of articles on Oxford’s government for the local on-line and print media and would appreciate your cooperation.

For the first installment we are eager to interview you and other members of the Oxford Town Board about the town’s current revision of its Zoning Laws and approach to the 1970 Oxford Comprehensive Plan in the aftermath of the Village and Chenango County Planning Board actions.

As you know, the ChenangoCounty Planning Board (CCPB) initially denied the Village’s amendment under the 239M procedure and was then overruled by a Village 4-1 super-majority.  Our initial six questions focus on the second of four reasons the ChenangoCounty Planning Board gave for its denial.  In summary this reason was:

In New York, the zoning enabling acts continue to require that zoning be undertaken “in accordance with a well considered plan or, in accordance with a comprehensive plan”. 

          According to our records, the Village of Oxford Comprehensive Plan has not been updated since February 1970. The document is entitled “The Summary Master Plan, Town and Village of Oxford, N.Y.”.

          It is recommended that the Village of Oxford updates its Comprehensive Plan prior to adopting amendments to the Village of Oxford Zoning Law in order to assure both documents are in conformance to each other.

Here are six questions we ask you to address at the next Town Board meeting and in an interview scheduled at your convenience:

1) Last year the Town Board tasked the Town Planning Board with revising the Town’s Zoning Laws.  As Supervisor will you recommend that the Town Board follow or reject the CCPB’s recommendation to update the 1970 Town and Village of Oxford Master Plan in the rezoning process, and will you task the planning board with that additional assignment?

2)  As the title makes clear, the 1970 Town and Village of Oxford Master Plan jointly covered both Town and Village.  As Town Supervisor how will you recommend the Town and Village planning boards work together on this project?

3) Last year the Town allocated $5000 to the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York in Syracuse to produce the Vision Planning Project Report as a first step in updating the 1970 Town and Village of Oxford Master Plan. The final report was presented to the Town Board at its last meeting.  How are you going to use this report in upgrading the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Laws?

4) The Village just amended its Zoning Laws to prohibit gas drilling.  The Chenango County Planning Board rejected the amendment under the 239M procedureThe Town modified its Zoning Laws in 2007 to permit gas drilling.  What was the CCPB’s 239M ruling on the Town’s changes?  Please provide us the 239M procedure exchange between the county and town so we can compare the experiences of the Village and Town.

5) Earlier this month New YorkState’s SullivanCounty returned a draft Comprehensive Plan to the Town of Callicoon because the draft’s pro-fracking language was at odds with the expressed views of the residents.

In the Gotham Gazette article you were quoted:

“The positive things that safe gas exploration could bring to upstate New York are phenomenal,” Wilcox said. But, he said he was still awaiting the results of the state review. “I don’t want to have it unless it can be done safely. That’s the feeling of most of the community. They don’t want to see the land ruined.”

Through both letters and petitions, more than 1000 OxfordVillage and Town residents have opposed gas drilling.  As Chair of the Chenango County Board of Supervisors and Town of Oxford Supervisor, how will you insure that public opinion pro- and con-gas drilling is taken into consideration by both county and town government in Oxford’s current work on zoning and planning revision?

6) Given the complexity of the Town Planning Board’s tasks, the amount of time required, and the possibility that the Department of Environmental Conservation could issue drilling permits shortly, we remind you of the five permit process questions we submitted to you on October 19.  We ask you to address these at the next Town Board meeting or during our press interview.  (See Appendix below)

Sincerely,

Paul Brennan

Research Committee

Oxford Visionaries

 

Appendix

October 19 Town Board Questions 1-5

1) Will the Town receive a notice that a local gas drilling permit is under consideration by the DEC before it is issued? 

          2) How much time will the Town have to prepare for each permit?

3) How will the public be notified?

          4) What procedure does the Town follow once it receives the permit?

5) What are the state regulations for a municipality to accept, reject or modify a permit based on the application of its zoning laws? 

 

TEN QUESTIONS FOR A PLANNING BOARD

 

The following ten questions address the ruling by the Chenango County Planning Board  (CCPB) rejecting the Oxford Village Board’s clarifying amendment to its current zoning laws.

The ruling by the Chenango Board is attached for reference below the ten questions.

 

January 29, 2013

Ten Questions

SUBJECT: Chenango County Planning Board’s 239-Review Committee

Ruling Rejecting the 13-02 Village of Oxford Zoning Amendment (attached below)

1) The Village Amendment is explicitly a clarification not a change.  How does the CCPB define a “change” differently from the Village Planning Board?

2) Last year the CCPB approved a Village moratorium that explicitly banned gas drilling for a finite length of time.  Now it refuses to approve a zoning amendment that clarifies a prohibition that “both sides” agree already exists? What are the grounds for this reversal?

3) What is “vague” about the phrase, “Any Use Not Specifically Permitted Is Prohibited”?  Isn’t this standard legal wording in all zoning laws?

4) “[R]estricting certain land uses the community may deem to be allowable” would seem to be the essential purpose of all zoning laws.  The Oxford Village community has been intensely engaged in the amendment process for six months and shown overwhelming support for a prohibition of gas drilling in the village.  No one has advocated gas drilling in the village.  What is the special meaning the CCPB is giving to “the community”?

5) What legal power does a county possess to make recommendations that preempt New York State’s Constitutional Principle of Home Rule for towns and villages?

6) The DEC’s scope of powers will not change even if the November 29, 2012 draft regulations are modified.  Specifically the DEC cannot protect any roads, land uses, or local water sources.  How can a county planning department recommend Chenango County towns and villages not plan to protect natural resources and infrastructure until gas drilling permits have been issued and it is legally too late?

7) Chenango County has already recommended a model municipalroad use agreement with gas drilling companies.  The Oxford Town Board approved it at its last meeting.  Is the county recommending that this vote be rescinded and no such agreements be considered until the DEC issues permits for gas drilling?

8) Under New York State’s compulsory integration statute, gas companies will force hundreds of Chenango County landowners to forfeit the mineral rights under their property.  Only local zoning prohibitions can prevent that.  How would the board respond to a landowner’s suspicion that this ruling suggests that the Chenango County Planning Board has become the gas industry’s enforcer of that loss of property rights?

9) “Additionally, amendment to the Village of Oxford Local Zoning law has the potential to have economic impacts throughout the region.”  What does that mean?  Doesn’t the planning board think that the many Chenango County Town Boards that have opened their doors to gas drilling will also have “economic impacts throughout the region.”  Does the board favor some economic impacts” over others?

10) Which political actors in this county decision against Oxford Village have gas leases or professional connections to the gas industry?

Jan. 24 Ruling by the Chenango County Planning Board

 

Chenango County Planning Board denial

January 24, 2013

Mayor Terry Stark

Village of Oxford

SUBJECT      Results of 239-Review  Conditions  Return for Local Determination

RE                  13-02 (Village of Oxford) Village of Oxford Zoning Amendment

Dear Mayor Stark

The Chenango County Planning Board’s 239-Review Committee has completed the review of the above referenced proposal, per your request.

The Committee has denied the application with the following recommendations or concerns;

•           The amendment to Article III of the Village of Oxford Zoning Law states

DISTRICTS AND BOUNDARIES

Any Use Not Specifically Permitted Is Prohibited.

There is concern that the language in this amendment is too vague, unintentionally restricting certain land uses the community may deem to be allowable.

•           Page three (3) of “Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan” of the James A. Coon Local Government Technical Series, and made available by the NYS Department of State includes the following statement

In New York, the zoning enabling acts continue to require that zoning be undertaken “in accordance with a well considered plan or, in accordance with a comprehensive plan”.

According to our records, the Village of Oxford Comprehensive Plan has not been updated since February 1970. The document is entitled “The Summary Master Plan, Town and Village of Oxford, N.Y.”.

It is recommended that the Village of Oxford updates its Comprehensive Plan prior to adopting amendments to the Village of Oxford Zoning Law in order to assure both documents are in conformance to each other.

•           Furthermore, the action of changing the Village of Oxford Local Zoning Law is not timely because New York State has not yet completed their studies, which would provide guidance for permitting any requirements to be adhered to at the local level. Until these rules and guidance are adopted by the state the executive order prohibiting issuance of permits for gas extraction remains in effect. As such, any local law which would contradict State rules would be superseded by State regulations and therefore become moot. It is recommended by the Chenango Planning & Development Board that any municipality does not take any action prior to the State issuing their rules and recommendations; and will ensure that local actions are taken in compliance with the State rules and guidelines.

•           Additionally, amendment to the Village of Oxford Local Zoning law has the potential to have economic impacts throughout the region.

Please send Chenango County Planning and Development a copy of your Board’s decision.

Respectfully,

Theodore W. Guinn, Chairman

Chenango County 239-Review Committee

http://www.co.chenango.ny.us/planning/planning-board/documents/PB_Forms.pdf

Comments are closed.