Senior planner advises caution
Amending the river plan could be dangerous
NARROWSBURG, NY — Tom Shepstone, principal of Shepstone Management Company Planning & Research Consultants of Honesdale, came before the Upper Delaware Council on May 2 to recount some history and perhaps provide them some guidance for the future.
Five decades ago, then county municipal planner Tom Shepstone was among the first planners to undertake the format for what would become the Land and Water Use Guidelines (L&WUG) for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. He would work in an ad-hoc group of county planners, dubbed the Upper Delaware Clearing House and lead three planning groups through several subsequent revisions of the draft river management plan. Shepstone said he dug out his old notebooks from the period, which he brought along to document his presentation.
Shepstone is the go-to guy for the history of the Upper Delaware project. As he said during an unsuccessful 2011 effort to allow natural gas fracking as a conditional use, “No one knows more than I do about what [the plan] says and what it means.”
UDC rejected fracking, but some members have been uncomfortable about the legality of that and subsequent decisions about cell towers and solar-power farms, issues that did not exist and therefore were not considered by the plan. “Today doesn’t resemble anything like 1986. It’s exhausting to work around the language to get to the intent,” Shohola’s Aaron Robinson said.
Rather than reopening the lengthy and controversial can of worms that a formal revision of the L&WUG would entail, UDC has opted for “letters of interpretation” to deal with these new issues.
“Take care who interprets them,” Shepstone warned.
Shepstone advised, “You might develop a supplement, not an amendment. Doing the whole thing might be dangerous. The force of the Guidelines is common agreement. They were published in the Federal Register as part of the plan, not adopted individually,” he said.
The law has nothing in it about updating. “It would be the same exact process… Supplement what you can agree upon. It took four months to write our Constitution. It took us four years to write the plan… Take care. Be cautious,” Shepstone said.