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Meredith OKs ban on heavy industry

The town of Meredith has become the second Delaware County town to impose a ban on heavy industry, including drilling for shale gas.

The Meredith Town Board, led by Supervisor Keitha Capouya, voted 4-0 in favor of the ban Thursday night.

The fifth board member, Paul Menke, was absent from the meeting, which Capouya said was attended by about 25 residents.

Earlier this month, the town board sponsored two public hearings on the measure, titled the Prohibition of Heavy Industrial Uses Local Law. The town also sent the draft law to the Delaware County Planning Board for review prior to the vote.

That agency returned the legislation to the town, stamped, “no action taken,” a signal that it would not seek to modify or oppose it.

Said Capouya: “The possibility of such a law has been discussed many times over the past few years. The board studied regulations that had been passed by other towns, and discussed the matter with a number of attorneys who specialize in land-use laws. We wanted a law, based on home rule, to protect our citizens and our environment from severe industrial pollution and damage.”

The only other Delaware County town that has imposed a ban on fracking is Andes. Its prohibition was enacted in February. Parts of both Andes and Meredith are situated within the New York City watershed region, while the remaining portions are outside the protected watershed land.

Larry Bennett, a member of the Meredith Landowners Association, a group that advocated for a drilling ban, said while there is no indication that gas companies are imminently planning to set up shop in the town, the new law will shield the town for the long term.

“Just because it’s not happening now doesn’t mean they won’t try something in five years or 10 years,” Bennett said.

He noted that the proposed Constitution Pipeline could slice through or come close to Meredith, while a proposed feeder pipeline that would be destined for Delhi could also come through the town.

“We are all very, very happy that this has finally come to be,” said Bennett, noting Capouya did “yeoman’s work” in organizing the work that went into the new law.

The Meredith board was guided by Nan Stolzenburg of Community Planning and Environmental Associates, and a land-use lawyer, John Lyons of the firm Grant and Lyons, in developing the law, officials said.

Whether New York towns are authorized to prohibit gas drilling within their borders is the subject of ongoing litigation — with one case involving the Otsego County town of Middlefield — that is now before the state Court of Appeals. A decision is expected to come in 2014. ___

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