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December 05, 2016
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Bethel public hearing on drilling ban; one more time, with passion

Countering that, Karen London, an attorney who was appointed to the committee that reviewed the zoning amendment, gave a concise and convincing argument about why a party that brings a “takings” lawsuit would likely not prevail. She said, “As early as 1887, the U.S. Supreme Court laid out the principal that all property in this country is held under the implied obligation that the owner’s use of it shall not be injurious to the community. In 1926, in a landmark case that I studied in law school, and which is still being cited today, the Supreme Court held that zoning that resulted in the devaluation of the plaintiff’s property did not constitute a taking if such zoning is designed to protect the public health, safety and welfare.”

Regarding the revenues drilling might bring to the town, former Bethel supervisor and dairy farmer Harold Russell said a single well producing $5.5 million of gas annually, which is average for the wells being drilled in Pennsylvania, would mean “county services would get $113,500, the town general fund would get $21,500, the highway department would get $24,350, fire protection would get $13,900 and the school taxes would be $401,850.” He, like others who opposed the ban, asked the board to put off a decision at least until the state releases the final rules on drilling.

Supervisor Dan Sturm said the board would consider all of the spoken and written comments that were submitted before scheduling a vote on the matter. If the vote comes down to a simple consideration of the weight of public sentiment expressed at the various meetings on the issue, the choice for lawmakers will not be a difficult one.