Jerusalem, N.Y. – People in the Town of Jerusalem will likely agree there are a lot of good things on the horizon in the town.
Foremost, of course, is the announcement that Keuka Lake State Park was chosen from 19 other sites to be the home of the multi-million dollar Finger Lakes Cultural and Natural History Museum on April 21.
One good thing leads to another. The long-empty Branchport School was purchased for use by the museum.
Application for a grant to spruce up the “downtown” area of Branchport a little for visitors and residents was approved at the June 16 meeting of the Jerusalem Town Council.
Council members discussed giving the building and zoning officer “more teeth” by revising local laws dealing with property maintenance to get things cleaned up. It was also reported that the first town-wide cleanup day was very successful.
However, the majority of the 35 plus people attending last week’s meeting were present to discuss concerns for environmental issues having no connection to the museum or revitalization. The meeting lasted three and one half hours and the council gave the public a lot of time for questions and answers.
The meeting began with a presentation by George Mathewson, member of the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and candidate for New York State Assembly, on the Marcellus Shale.
Mathewson was armed with lots of proof as to the harm and disruption caused by hydrofracturing displayed in blown-up site pictures and numerous copies of articles from prominent sources.
The town of Dimock, Pa., about 20 miles south of Binghamton was referenced as a place with lots of drilling activity. Some people in the audience verified they had also visited Dimock, where drill sites are located in remote, hard to find areas. It was also noted that the trucks hauling water in and out of the sites bear no markings.
Mathewson noted many issues with the huge pieces of equipment used in the process which will travel on town and county roads, conceivably causing damage.
In drilling areas in Pennsylvania, Art Hunt said, road traffic is so heavy that the time to go into town has changed from five minutes to one hour from rural farms. Hunt and his wife, Joyce both expressed concerns for what they saw during visits to Towanda and Dimock.
The traffic and size of the equipment, Mathewson says, would also present problems for the slower moving Mennonite community buggies, bike riders and walkers. “This is what the board has to deal with,” Mathewson says.
As a retired lawyer, Mathewson contends there is a conflict with New York State laws dealing with towns having powers to regulate within their jurisdiction. As the laws are written, the towns and counties only have a say about regulations in regard to the roads.
On June 14 the Yates County Legislature approved a Road Preservation Use and Repair Policy to be passed on to other local governments for adoption to protect local roads.
The regular meeting proceeded until shortly after 9 p.m. when resident John Kiedel said a lot of people were there to get an update on windfarms.
John Grabski said there was a lot of talk about a map indicating possible wind development sites.
Councilman Neil Simmons confirmed the existence of a map charting a general area where there “might” be sites and at least 10 are on state land. He said Assessor Butch Comstock compiled the map.
A subcommittee has worked on the issue for over two years. At a recent meeting it was indicated that the subcommittee was done with their work until the town decides to take some action.
Simmons said, “We had three informational meetings and discussed this at monthly meetings and I didn’t see these faces there.”
Resident Frank Zifino said, “Some of us are playing catch-up, but we are fast learners.” He said the town needs to get financial data from the wind energy companies to see if they are really profitable.
Town Attorney Philip Bailey was asked questions about the possibility of eminent domain.
He said utilities can use that power and that is why it is sometimes better to make tough regulations rather than an all-out ban.
Simmons said it may be time to put some rules in place.
Neighboring Italy is in the midst of a legal battle with Ecogen LLC over the development of an 18-turbine wind farm there.
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