Eight towns in Sullivan County have been working with attorneys and engineers for nearly four years to come up with agreements to protect local roads should a high-impact activity, such as gas drilling, come to the region. At the Tusten Town Board meeting on October 3, there was a public hearing for Tusten’s version of the proposed law, and it sparked some objection.
Supervisor Carol Wingert explained that the law would only apply to certain projects, depending on such things as the number of axels on the trucks related to a specific project, and how many truck trips would be involved over time. Councilperson Eileen Falk said the law would not apply to the trucks of local businessman Ned Lang, or local logging trucks or feed mill trucks.
Lang, however, who is running for a seat on the town board, objected to the law. He said, “We have this very, very restrictive zoning now that is a big stop sign to any new business coming in, so now as I understand it, if I want to build a house, I have to go through another permitting process about the amount of trucks that are possibly going to come into and go out of my site if I need to raise the grade, if I need 30 loads of top soil. This is just another huge impediment to any business that wants to come in here, and also developing any type of properties in our town. It sounds very restrictive and anti-business right from the get-go.”
Planning board chairman Ed Jackson explained that developers with projects that would be likely to cross the threshold would be required to fill out an application for a “haul route,” and also to pay for an engineering study to determine if a particular road was sufficiently strong to serve the developer’s needs. If not, the developer might be required to “bring the road up to a standard to allow them to do what they want to do.”
That prompted highway supervisor Glenn Swendsen to ask, “If somebody wanted to build a home or open a business, they’re going to have to improve the road before they can open the business?”
Jackson responded, “No, it depends on what their traffic flow is. The average business would not generate enough traffic flow to get caught in the net, to get picked up in this process.” Wingert said that also applied to the typical house.
Another topic of discussion was the baseline traffic study. Wingert said Delta Engineering had prepared a baseline study of the town roads, so the town could be certain of the condition of the roads in case a high-impact project damaged them.
Council member Norman Meyer said his recollection from Delta was that the baseline study was to be updated every year, which might fall under the auspices of the highway superintendent. He said if the town went in that direction, his own preference might be that a yearly study be done by a professional organization such as Delta.
“How much would that cost taxpayers?” Lang asked.
“Delta would have to tell us.”
Jackson said the law is not limited to Tusten. Surrounding towns are passing similar laws. Lang said the law had not been posted on the website and he had not read it. Wingert said the hearing would be continued at another meeting on October 10 to allow people time to read it.