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If you want something done right…

December 29, 2011

As we reviewed the events of 2011 to draw up a list of the things we think deserve celebration or condemnation, we couldn’t help but note a theme emerging: if you want something done right, do it yourself. Although there are exceptions to this rule, it seems that by and large most of the sources of inspiration over the past year could be found in our own backyard. This is a theme we’ve noted before in our year-end editorial, but it seems like this year it was more true than ever.

Heading the list of such developments was the initiative to preserve home rule rights. On the New York side of the river, Tusten’s passage of a local zoning ordinance that included a prohibition of high-impact industrial uses was a historic event, and promises to set a precedent for similar affirmations by other local townships including Lumberland, Highland and Bethel. The interpretation of state law on this point is admittedly controversial, and the courts have yet to rule on the matter, with suits in Dryden and Middlefield still pending. But the protection of our ability to control the quality of life in our own backyards is certainly a battle worth fighting, and the Tusten law marks an encouraging victory along the way.

Pennsylvania is in the midst of a similar battle, with both houses of the state legislature having passed what, at least in its original form, was essentially an extortion bill, making payment of natural gas drilling impact fees contingent on the adoption of a state-designed ordinance that would overwrite local zoning. This land grab by the state transcends the natural gas controversy, and we stand behind the townships all over Pennsylvania, including Damascus and Shohola, that have registered their protests, supported by the Upper Delaware Council. (The protests may be having some effect; see page 1.)

The road-use agreement for heavy industrial road users developed by Sullivan County’s Multi Municipal Task Force (MMTF) is another example of a bottoms-up initiative we can take pride in for setting a precedent. Indeed, the model developed by Delta Engineering for the MMTF was taken as a template by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the section of its SGEIS on mitigating road use damage. Here is a case where we can take credit for initiating leadership for an entire state.