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Public Hearing – October 2, 2013

A public hearing of the Town Board of the Town of Homer on the proposed changes to Town’s Comprehensive Plan held on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, in the Town Hall senior center was called to order by Supervisor Frederick J. Forbes at 7:00 p.m.

PRESENT

             Frederick J. Forbes, Supervisor

             Barry E. Warren, Councilman

             Dan A. Weddle, Councilman

             Kevin M. Williams, Councilman

            Brian D. Young, Councilman

             Patrick M. Snyder, Attorney for the Town

            Anita W. Jebbett, Town Clerk

OTHERS PRESENT

            Christopher Sammond, member, Zoning Advisory Board

            Ted Sudol, member, Zoning Advisory Board

            Gordon Wheelock, member, Zoning Advisory Board and Cortland County 

                        Legislator

              Eugene Wright, member, Zoning Advisory Board and Chairman, Planning Board

            Gary Smith, Executive Director, MICAH-Cortland

            Eric Mulvihill, reporter, WXHC

            Approximately 40 residents (see attached list)

Supervisor Forbes said that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the revisions to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan as proposed by the Zoning Advisory Committee and approved by them by a unanimous vote.  He said that the Town had tried to have a committee balanced by members both pro and con.  The proposed changes have been posted on the Town’s new website. 

 Forbes asked if there were any questions or comments and asked that they be relative to the Comprehensive Plan revisions.

            Stephanie Spina, PhD., a Village resident, read a prepared statement outlining why she believes that hydro-fracking “poses definite, significant and irrefutable risks to the health, safety and welfare of Homer residents” and asked the Board to ban fracking (statement attached to minutes).

            William Wood of Cortland and owner of land on Kinney Gulf Road stated that he recently moved to the Cortland area for employment as an operator at the City of Cortland Wastewater Treatment Plant.   He read a prepared statement on the many adverse effects of gas drilling on the town of Mansfield, Pennsylvania.  Those ill-effects include traffic issues, sediment occurring in wells, clear streams now grey with sediment, infrastructure over capacity, a work force primarily from out-of-state, and poor air quality.

            Dan Wixted of Bond Road said that while the changes to the Comprehensive Plan stress the importance of protecting the quality of the Town’s water, the Plan should also address concerns about the quantity of water. He said that hydro-fracking not only uses enormous quantities of water, but removes the majority of water used from the water cycle.  He submitted a written statement explaining his concerns (attached).

            Linda Fumarola, Alfred Lane, said that hydro-fracking is hazardous to the Town’s health, safety and welfare and that the oil & gas industries are not concerned with our interests.  She said that we are fortunate in Homer to have pure and abundant water resources and that it is naïve to think that the State or the oil companies will protect them.  She urged the Board members to act in the collective self-interest and ban hydro-fracking in the Town.

Linda Wiley, a Village resident, urged Homer residents and the Town Board to stand up and ban fracking.

            Grant VanSant, Baldwin Road, stated that overall he felt that the Committee did a good job and he urged the Town Board to adopt the proposed changes to the Plan.

            Supervisor Forbes asked for comment from Committee members present on the concern about quantity of water.

            Christopher Sammond said that he has no objection to adding the word “quantity” to the Plan.  He explained that the phrase “undue risk” had been a subject for debate by the Committee as he felt it was too vague.

            Eugene Wright and Ted Sudol also had no objection to the wording addition.         Attorney Snyder said that, in his opinion, protecting the quantity of water as well as the quality was implicit in the findings by the County Planning Board and he felt it was the intention of the Committee. He suggested that adding the phrasing “and quantity” was fairly simple and would not be a substantive change to the Plan.

            Victor Furman, resident of Chenango Forks and Director of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, agreed that it was important to protect the quantity and quality of the water and supported the Committee’s efforts to keep drilling away from the sources of that water.  He said however that there is much disinformation in regard to hydrofracking.  His concern is with promoting energy independence and he feels hydrofracking is one way to alleviate dependence on foreign oil from countries that are hostile to the U.S.

            Jule VanSant, Baldwin Road resident, said in response that many of the gas companies are owned by other countries and/or plan to sell that gas for export to other countries including China and India.  She said that our resources are being exploited for the benefit of big natural gas & oil companies.

            JoAnne Dukelow, Village resident and landowner on Brake Hill Road, said that she is a long-time activist in matters relating to water quality and voiced her concerns about water quality and quantity due to hydro-fracking.

            Gary Smith, Village resident and Executive Director of MICAH, said that he was appreciative of the work done by the Zoning Advisory Committee and the balance on the Committee.  He asked the Board to approve the changes to the Plan and to pay special attention to the “undue risks”.  He presented some documentation (attached) which outlines all the various health impacts of fracking and again urged the Town to ban hydro-fracking outright.

            Ron Phillips of Johnson City and a member of the Landowners Coalition reported that studies in Australia and in Dish, Texas, found no differences in the health of residents in areas where fracking is occurring to the health of the general population.  He also said that in a survey of 28 states in which fracking is being conducted, there was found to be no contamination of wells by fracking fluid.  Other enterprises such as golf courses and power companies use more water than drilling a well, according to Phillips.  He said that the presence of gas wells increases land value.

            At this point Brenda Clark, Houghton Hill Road resident and a local teacher, chided those present for not allowing Mr. Furman and Mr. Phillips to speak without negativity.

            Gordon Wheelock, Village resident and Committee member, said that he had traveled to Pennsylvania twice to view hydro-fracking operations there and found very few negative aspects.  From his experience, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation will take their regulatory role very seriously when the State finally makes a decision regarding gas drilling.  Although he is in favor of fracking, he said that he does not plan to lease land he owns until he is certain their methods are safe.

Victor Furman said that some of the problems caused by fracking can be mitigated, for example by restricting drilling to certain hours by imposing noise limits, or restricting large vehicle traffic during the hours school buses will be operating.

            Ward Dukelow, Village resident and Brake Hill landowner, said that in his opinion the Town has gone over and above what is usually included in a Comprehensive Plan and has done a good job.  He urged the Town Board to accept the revised plan.

The public hearing was closed at 8:10 p.m.

                                                                                                Anita W. Jebbett

                                                                                                Town Clerk