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Tusten becomes ‘friend of the court’ to Dryden and Middlefield

By Isabel Braverman
August 21, 2013

TUSTEN, NY — At the Tusten town board meeting on Tuesday, August 13, the board members discussed and voted on becoming an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in actions involving municipal home rule in the court of appeals of the State of New York.

This pertains to a local law that was passed by the towns of Dryden and Middlefield banning gas drilling and other heavy industrial uses. However, the towns were sued in state Supreme Court, and the cases have been making their way through the appellate levels of court. The Supreme Court judges ruled in favor of the towns.

In 2012, the cases were appealed to the appellate court, and four members of the Tusten town board voted to file an amicus curiae brief in that case. The Appellate Court then also ruled in favor of the towns. Now, the cases are being taken to the New York Court of Appeals, which is the highest court, and again the board was considering a new amicus curiae or brief.

There was much discussion about whether or not the amicus curiae had to do with gas drilling. Both supervisor Carol Ropke Wingert and councilman Tony Ritter said that it is a case of home rule, and whether the town wants to enforce it. Wingert said, “The issue of this is not about gas drilling; as a board, if this community was pro-gas, this gives this board the power to change our zoning to it; it actually works for you. It’s giving your local board, with the input from its constituents, the chance to do what’s right for your community.”

Councilman Ned Lang said that he believes it is indeed about gas drilling. He said, “The state has a lot to say about what’s going on in the town, whether we like to have independent home rule or not—we do. This is about gas drilling, and I’m pro-gas drilling, I’ve been very clear about that.”

Ritter said, “This is not a state decision, this is a township decision. So if the townships want it, they can, if the townships don’t want it, that’s fine too. They’ve put it back in our hands, which then refers back to the comprehensive plan and the zoning plan, which is what the public worked on for a year and a half. So we’re listening to what the public wants.”

Lang responded, “What the public wants and what me as an individual land owner wants, doesn’t always congeal.”

After the discussion, the resolution was put to a vote and it passed 3-2, with Lang and councilman Norman Meyer dissenting. This means that the Town of Tusten, as amicus curiae, is supporting Dryden and Middlefield in their court rulings.