"From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean."

Well, maybe that line from the prologue to Romeo and Juliet overstates things just a tad—we're not quite at the "civil blood" stage in Dryden and presumably won't be—but there's no doubt that we're at the "civic groundwater pollution" stage and actually have been for some time...see the videos that are linked in this post from June if you doubt it.

More of the same occurred this past week at the Dryden Town Board public hearing and you can see some videos in this blog entry, "Will Dryden Go Dry?"  And if only there were video available of one of these same speakers cautioning against the town overreaching its authority at the April town board meeting and being loudly booed by his moral and intellectual superiors.

The aforementioned blog entry, by the way, contains some valuable information, such as

...The proposed ordinance amendment  is written so naively as to prohibit not only drilling but also pipelines, gas-related offices, storage or use of gas and all sorts of other things.  It says, among other things, that “No land in the Town shall be used to … transfer (or) store natural gas; or … for natural gas and/or petroleum support activities” and “No permit issued by any local, state or federal agency, commission or board for a use which would violate the prohibitions of this section or of this Ordinance shall be deemed valid within the Town.”  This language would prevent any fuel oil dealer or any propane dealer from locating in the town, along with pipelines, CNG fueling stations or even a gasoline station or office for a company dealing in petroleum products.  Perhaps worst, is the notion that the Town of Dryden can declare a state or Federal permit as invalid. [link added--tvm]  Does the Town really think it can supersede the Public Service Commission’s Article 7 process relating to pipelines for example?  Well, maybe it should read this case, which says not.

Read the whole thing.

A new group, the Dryden Safe Energy Coalition, has a website containing Dryden-specific information as well as more general Marcellus Shale info, articles, and excerpts from relevant legal source documents. If you're interested in joining the group, there's an e-mail address, DrydenSEC@gmail.com, at which you can indicate that interest to the group organizers.

The town board was originally scheduled to vote following the public hearing on July 20th on the zoning ordinance amendment that would ban all gas-related activities, but has postponed its vote until August 2nd. If you're a Dryden resident, you may want to contact the board members before August 2nd:

Mary Ann Sumner, Dryden Town Supervisor: supervisor@dryden.ny.us

David Makar, Dryden Town Board member: dmakar@dryden.ny.us

Jason Leifer, Dryden Town Board member: jleifer@dryden.ny.us

Steve Stelick, Dryden Town Board Member: sstelick@dryden.ny.us

Joe Solomon, Dryden Town Board member:  jsolomon@dryden.ny.us

For a little different perspective, no one beats South of 5 and 20 for spot-on snark—check out South's post on this topic.

And Dryden farmers had their say, too, and quite eloquently, although I haven't been able to unearth any video of their remarks to the town board.  By and large, though, their take on this is reflected in this earlier post.

Let's hope the discourse going forward is a little more civil than it's been.  And stay tuned—we'll keep you posted.

Notes from a Blogger Holiday

My co-blogger and I took some time this week to poke around Allegany County.  This is the week of their fair, and we dropped in on the horse pull competition. We found that some farmers are pretty handy at moving seemingly intractable forces.  The competition purses weren't very large, so it clearly isn't just the money that motivates them.

Just sayin'.

Hogs are hovering

"This presentation is not intended to support or oppose gas drilling activities..."  We'll have to see, of course, but the presentation in question, called "Looking Down From Above" sounds an awful lot like this video (complete with Pete Seeger music)—and, really, don't we all regularly view our property from a helicopter? 

The video's found at the Fracking Resource Guide website, whose sources include Pro Publica, hardly a neutral organization. I'm guessing that it's as likely that this presentation at the VFW will be neither pro- nor anti-fracking as it is that pigs will, you know...


More "It's a fact that it's a possibility":

Discomfort zone

Zoning laws can sometimes be used in backhanded ways, for instance, by tacking a noise ordinance on to the existing zoning code that would prohibit heavy, industrial noise like what would be emitted from gas drilling operations—and voilà! No fracking.

But even in its more mundane manifestations, zoning laws can have (perhaps) unintended, albeit foreseeable, consequences.

In an earlier post, we linked to a blog by a fellow Dryden resident who pointed out some potential problems with the proposed update to the town zoning ordinance.  At his blog, Economics, my dear Watson, Dr. Watson has unearthed some additional interesting information:

...A new article in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics by Liu and Lynch (an ungated version here) asks "Do Zoning Regulations Rob Rural Landowners' Equity."

They find that if you own agricultural land, there is no effect. On the surface, it appears that non-agricultural land loses 50% of its value, but at least half of that comes from being in an area that is considering down-zoning. Once you account for political decision making (endogeneity), down-zoning reduces non-agricultural land values by 20-28%...

Do read the whole thing.  Probably many people have had the uncomfortable feeling that this was so, but the journal article provides some empirical evidence to support what had previously been largely anecdotal.

This should sound frighteningly familiar

As we noted in an earlier post, "The town and city of Ithaca, the Town of Dryden and Tompkins County are all members of ICLEI."

For additional information on ICLEI, see "Do You Live In a One-World-Government ‘Sustainable’ Community Yet?"  A few points:

  • "ICLEI, or the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, was established in 1990 at the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future, at the United Nations in New York."
  • "Sustainability” and ICLEI and United Nation’s Agenda 21, which was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, are synonymous."

and best of all

  • "ICLEI member cities pay their annual dues using local taxpayer money, which is used to pay city employees who work to carry out ICLEI’s programs."

So what do we do about this? "The ICLEI membership is renewable annually. Go all-out Alinsky on this! Stop the renewal..."

And read the whole thing.
h/t David

Construction moratorium in Varna?

In the March 8th Ithaca Journal (comments by Henry Kramer):

VARNA -- Residents here are pushing for a nine-month moratorium on new construction in the hamlet to force proposed developments like Stephen Lucente's 250-unit townhouse complex to adhere to updated zoning requirements when they are considered for approval by the Town of Dryden.

First, a legal issue. I wonder if the town can put into place a moratorium for just one part of the town or would they have to do it for all of us?  I don't know.  I am somewhat concerned about Varna driving the rest of the town.

Second, the article assumes pretty much that the proposed zoning changes will become law.  That assumption is not helpful to those who would like to stop or substantially alter the huge transfer of power from homeowner to government they are planning for us.

[...] The petition to enact a moratorium, which had at least 23 signatures since late last week, would enable the town and residents to finish the Varna Master Plan, an element of the Town of Dryden's proposed zoning code revisions, before new developments can be considered.

The master plan, toward which the town allocated $70,000 to finance consultants, will take about six months to complete, and will attempt to manage growth in a way that most residents find agreeable.

Third, since the only survey is ten years old, I don't know how the town is supposed to know what "most residents" (of the entire town, not just Varna) will find "agreeable."  Nor do we know that most residents want growth "managed" by government.  Outside Varna, I see no groundswell demanding that government start determining land use to the extent proposed.

[...] Town Planning Director Dan Kwasnowski said although the decision on a moratorium is up to the town board, he said receiving a development application during the creation of a master plan could be "a huge distraction" both for his office and for Varna residents.

He said including proposed developments in the master plan would allow for a more realistic idea of future water, sewer and traffic requirements...

Finally, this reflects an approach by government that I don't much like.  Water, sewer, and traffic is to be shaped to serve town government's determination of what is good for us.  I prefer to have the town respond to water and sewer requirements as the need arises and to limit their intrusion to health and safety issues (such as water supply and sanitation), not what is easiest for the town.  In other words, people's preferences, as much as possible, should drive government; government should never drive our choices.  One of our principles is that government is to serve the people, people are not to serve the government.  The trouble with planners is they love planning and particularly planning that institutionalizes their view of how we should live.

The elephant in the living room

DRYDEN -- The school board recommended to Dryden Central School District administrators that a 6 percent tax levy increase for the 2011-2012 budget is possible.


The proposed levy increase would do little to soften the impact of large state aid cuts to the district's budget, but would reduce the number of teachers and staff who would be laid off.


"This is unsustainable," said board member Lawrence Lyon. "Education in this district is starting to look really shabby, looking at these cuts year after year. It's not education anymore, after a certain point. We need a paradigm shift."

He's absolutely right. It's not education anymore and we do need a paradigm shift, just not the kind he's talking about.

Read “Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister: Welcome to our urban high schools, where kids have kids and learning dies," by Connecticut teacher Gerry Garibaldi (via Pundit & Pundette).  If it doesn't break your heart, you don't have one.

But, you say, that article is about urban schools, not our Tompkins County schools. True enough. But while the scale may be smaller, the issues aren't that different: many kids are being fed at least breakfast and lunch at school, as well as being sent home from school with food for evenings and weekends (one specific example is per Paula Hurley, superintendent of Trumansburg Central School, in an interview on WHCU), having nits picked out of their hair by school staff (as reported by a Newfield school staff member at Barbara Lifton's town meeting), and yes, in some cases, being taken care of during their pregnancies. Why are these things happening in schools on a daily basis? Poverty? Always and only because of poverty? 

Garibaldi says in his article, "Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch."  Maybe we need to start talking about that elephant.

Zoning--it's elementary

Holmes had his Dr. Watson, and One of Nine has its—Dr. Watson.  The computer currently beating the pants off its human competitors on "Jeopardy" is named—Watson.  But I digress.

From a fellow local blogger on Dryden zoning:

The worst part of the new zoning laws is that they proclaim everything not specifically permitted to be illegal. Now these laws only get revamped every 30-50 years. So imagine you're in 1960-1980 and coming up with your zoning laws....

What could go wrong?  Read the whole thing.


More goodies from today's Ithaca Journal, this time the "Guest Viewpoint:"

Local governments have led the effort in recent years to envision, accelerate and achieve strong climate protection goals. The 600 local governments that are members of a national network called ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability, have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 23 million tons in 2005 alone. This translates into about $600 million in annual cumulative savings, largely on energy expenditures. The town and city of Ithaca, the Town of Dryden and Tompkins County are all members of ICLEI.


Town of Dryden

* Energy efficiency upgrades at highway department completed.

* Geothermal system and high-efficiency lighting added to town hall facility.

* Provided funding for local residents to get energy audits.

* Sustainability planner hired (who is the person writing this piece--tvm)

* Energy coordinator to be hired in 2011.

* Sustainability planning process under way.

Sounds unimpeachably wonderful, doesn't it? Well, as many people who have been paying attention to the zoning and sustainability discussions (and, yes, they are connected as noted in an earlier post) in Dryden are aware, not so much. Poke around the ICLEI website, and then take a look at the "ICLEI Primer: Your Town and Freedom Threatened."  Sound familiar?

Your tax dollars at work


In today's Ithaca Journal:

Grant to support healthy choices

The Human Services Coalition, in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Tompkins County Health Department, will receive a $1.2 million grant over the next five years to support environmental changes that will reduce obesity and prevent development of diabetes.

Betty Falcao, director of the Health Planning Council of Tompkins County, said the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play Grant will support changes in environments that can help residents make healthier choices, such as to be more active or eat more fruits and vegetables.

The first two years of the grant will focus on the City of Ithaca and the Town of Dryden.

Examples of changes include promoting the use of neighborhood or community trails, improving accessibility and proximity of residential areas to recreation areas, improving aesthetic or safety aspects of physical environments, and working with local restaurants and stores to add healthier items.

You decide whether or not you think this is good or necessary, but you should at least be aware that the "Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play Grant" is money that comes from the NYS Health Department (i.e., your taxes).  That much ought to have been made clear but wasn't.  OK, now decide.


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