December 7, 2013
Groton to vote on frack moratorium
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Anti-hydrofracking signs such as this one on Spring Street Extension have been cropping up across the village and town of Groton.
GROTON — A public hearing on a proposed six-month moratorium on hydraulic fracturing will be held Tuesday during the Town Board meeting.
The moratorium is intended to give the town time to come up with any recommended changes to the town’s land use laws. The Town Board will also examine what new local regulations, if any, are necessary, according to the proposal.
The code enforcement officer, town Planning Board and town Zoning Board of Appeals are all expected to be involved with the review.
Ed Neuhauser, town Planning Board chair, could not be reached for comment. Town Code Officer Gary Coats referred questions about the moratorium to Town Supervisor Glenn Morre and the town attorney
“I don’t know that the Zoning Board is going to look at anything. It’s going to be more on the Planning Board at this time,” said Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Paul Foust.
Whether the Town Board votes on the proposed moratorium immediately after the public hearing is up to the board, said Robin Cargian, the deputy town clerk. No board members could be reached for comment.
The board had previously held a public hearing on the proposed law on Oct. 9, 2012, but Town Attorney Victoria Monty advised the board that a new public hearing was needed due to how much time had passed.
At the board’s Nov. 12 meeting, Town Board members Ellard Sovocool, Donald Scheffler, Sheldon Clark and Gamel all voted to hold the meeting Tuesday while Morey opposed.
The moratorium was shelved until an ethics board could be formed as some residents believed Town Board members had gas leases, Scheffler said in October, noting that he no longer had a gas lease. The ethics board was formed in July.
Town Board member-elect Kelly Smith asked at the September board meeting when a decision on the moratorium could be expected, according to meeting minutes. Morey replied that the board would wait until after the election to address the moratorium.
Smith, who attended the November meeting in which the date for the public hearing was set, said Wednesday that the board was planning on voting immediately after the hearing.
Should the moratorium be enacted, Smith said she would use the time to consider road use regulations.
“My ultimate goal is to actually ban fracking in Groton,” she said.
Smith, a Democrat and member of the Groton Party, defeated Scheffler, a Republican, in November.
Hydraulic fracturing, a drilling process that injects chemically-treated water underground to extract shale gas, has been awaiting approval in New York as the state finalizes rules and conducts a health study.
A petition with more than 800 residents’ signatures in favor of enacting a moratorium or ban in the town was turned in to the Town Board in September 2012.
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