Tempers flared at the latest public hearing on the Town of Lumberland’s proposed zoning rewrite on February 6, where public comments were again received by the town board. While only nine individuals spoke, a large crowd packed the hall and repeatedly disrupted the process with outbursts.
Many appeared motivated to attend the session after receiving an anonymous letter last week that opened with the statement, “The Town of Lumberland wants to TAKE YOUR PROPERTY.” The letter includes a section titled “Socialism 101,” and warns residents that the proposed zoning will cause property values to plummet. Objections are also cited related to rules governing subdivisions and landscaping requirements.
In the letter, residents are encouraged to “object to this government intrusion into your home, your wallet and your property rights.” Some acted on that advice by shouting at the town board. Several admitted to not having read the proposed zoning yet.
In her opening remarks, town supervisor Nadia Rajsz mentioned the letter. “The letter contains inaccurate information, as those of you who have read the zoning would know,” she said. “Without a signature, there is no ownership of the statements, or accountability for the misinformation.
Therefore, I ask how valid can this information be?”
Local builder Charles Petersheim, who lives in the Town of Highland and owns property in the Town of Lumberland, stated from the audience, “Nadia, I wrote it.” In recent months, Petersheim has been a vocal critic of the zoning rewrite, and those associated with it.
As she did at the last public hearing in December 2011, Rajsz continued by reading all 24 comments submitted, as well as the zoning board’s responses, then opened the floor for public comment.
Kevin Malone, an architect and Goshen property owner, questioned “the appropriateness of conservation subdivisions in rural settings.” He said, “I believe the zoning was written with a light heart, but with perhaps a heavy hand. I would appreciate it if the conservation subdivision section could be revisited.”
Petersheim began by criticizing “Article 10 and the naïve home rule ideas that are getting towns sued.” He added, “This anti-gas drilling zealotry is not without consequence or harm to the town. With a gas pipeline running the length of the town, Lumberland would be a perfect place for gas drilling, but not one acre has ever been leased, because there is no viably extractable gas in Lumberland.”
Petersheim also criticized two town council members in relation to the proposed conservation subdivision regulations. “I couldn’t be more astounded by Mr. Akt and Mr. Shafer, who made their living this way, subdividing land and working with developers and builders, that they would consider passing zoning of this sort. It’s totally invasive, it’s overkill and it’s unnecessary.”
Before closing, he said, “The supervisor of Lumberland seems more concerned with aligning the Town of Lumberland with the Upper Delaware Council and the River Management Plan and the Delaware River Scenic Byway, than the concerns of the local business community.”
Glen Spey resident and educator Peter Comstock commented that zoning law must uphold the town’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan. “To identify the goals of the comp plan, public focus hearings were convened, a town-wide survey was conducted and public hearings were held before its adoption,” he said. “Development of the comp plan was clearly the will of the residents of this town, and they most definitely value open space. The zoning rewrite committee has worked for nearly two years to interpret and carry out the mission of the comp plan. It has delivered a flexible and reasonable document that encourages economic development while protecting the environment and the rural values that brought most residents to Lumberland in the first place.”
Builder Hall Smyth of Pond Eddy said he has a small piece of property that he would like to sell to a person interested in establishing a chocolate processing facility, but that new landscaping restrictions would make it prohibitively expensive. “There is no provision within the current code that does encourage in any way economic development,” he said. “Most of the codes are hostile to business.”
Rajsz urged everyone to seek accurate information about the proposed zoning, noting, for example, that “the town is not out to take anybody’s land from them.” She encouraged visiting the town hall in Glen Spey to view a hard copy or reading it on the town website at www.towno  flumberland.org. Comments may still be submitted in writing until 3 p.m. on Friday, February 17. If substantial changes are in order, a third public hearing will be scheduled.
“The proposed zoning is proactive and fluid and can be amended at any time,” said Rasjz. “We’ve been taking our time with this, and won’t pass a law until all the comments are addressed. Meanwhile, our doors are open, so call or stop by.”