Welcome to the Oxford Visionaries Forum dedicated to the Oxford, NY Joint Village-Town Comprehensive Plan!
This page will present a full discussion of the background and status of the proposed joint Oxford, NY Village-Town Comprehensive Plan pending the outcome of the November 5, 2013 Oxford Town Board election.
Meanwhile, Irving Wesley Hall, a lifelong political activist, member of the Oxford Visionaries, and resident of the Village of Oxford, published the following statement about the Oxford Town Board’s attitude toward issues facing Oxford voters in the November 5, 2013 election.
A version of this statement appears on our blog page, FACE IT.
Because the content of the statement pertains directly to the Comprehensive Plan, we present an edited version of that statement for consideration in the Oxford Forum.
The Oxford Town Board’s chronic disrespect for its citizens and indifference to their concerns focused the attention of well-informed voters upon the highly vulnerable future of the Oxford joint village-town Comprehensive Plan.
At issue has been the diametrically opposite postures of the Village and the Town boards with respect to gas drilling, called fracking, in Oxford. The Village has banned gas production operations within village boundaries; the Town board is on record as promoting gas drilling throughout the town of Oxford. They are mindful that because of New York State’s compulsory integration law, the effects of gas drilling in the town would also affect the village in many ways.
The recent history of the division of opinion and policy between the village and the town boards focuses upon the 2012 Oxford Vision Plan project that Town Supervisor Lawrence Wilcox co-sponsored with Village Mayor Terry Stark at a cost of $10,000 to the taxpayers. The interactive sessions were led by faculty and graduate students from SUNY Syracuse. Many residents actively participated.
Those attending subsequent Town Board meetings genuinely wanted to continue with their elected representatives the exciting and respectful dialogue about community planning. They had done their homework and were well-informed on the issues. In the Vision Plan’s open and cooperative spirit, residents submitted written questions, questions that only the Oxford Town Board could answer. The seriousness and relevance of more than 100 questions are evident because all of them remain online within this website. (http://www.oxfordvisionaries.org/unanswered-questions-to-oxfords-town-board/)
The Town Board answered not a single question. Not even one!
This was not vision planning; it was unresponsive and dysfunctional government at its worst.
Supervisor Wilcox’s idea of public participation had been grudgingly to grant each citizen five minutes per meeting. With few exceptions all five board members ignored the speakers, enduring the obligatory half hour by avoiding eye contact and staring at the table like embarrassed school boys.
Why? Frustrated citizens finally had to file Freedom of Information Law requests against the board to discover what Wilcox’s board was covering up. For starters, they found the town’s pro-gas drilling zoning laws were filed illegally. Then the board ignored its laws entirely and secretly allowed Norse Energy to drill a gas well without any environmental impact study. Norse Energy is bankrupt and may have abandoned the well.
For more than a year the lively community spirit inspired by the Vision Plan and actively encouraged by both Town and Village boards was excluded from Wilcox’s Town Board.
At the regular monthly meeting on Wednesday October 9, 2013 the Oxford Town Board was again asked to consider the prohibition of gas drilling from the town’s residential zones.
“May” is the operative word. Given the board’s notorious lack of transparency, the specifics of any agenda are never available in advance.
According to the minutes of last April’s joint meeting with the Town Planning Board, “The T[own] B[oard] recommended taking the ‘drilling for gas and oil’ uses out of the following land uses: R-1, RR-2, and RM-3.”
Yes, the town’s present bogus zoning laws actually permit fracking in folks’ back yards!
After five months, the Board faced a public challenge to discuss and approve for public hearings the prohibiting of intensive industrial gas drilling from the town’s half dozen residential zones.
full discussion would show respect for his own Town Planning Board that he assigned months ago to draft legislation that recognizes intense truck traffic, drilling rigs, earsplitting compressor stations and water well pollution don’t belong in residential neighborhoods. That’s common sense and, so far, no one in town government has voiced any dissent.
Prohibiting gas drilling in residential neighborhoods will also show good judgment to the Oxford Academy seniors who participated in the Village’s Summer Students Project, and it will encourage other young people to continue the 2012 Vision Plan and become active in the current joint Town and Village Comprehensive Plan process.
Cmments and letters are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org