River panel seeking zoning mediation

DAVID HULSE
Posted 6/19/19

NARROWSBURG, NY — At its meeting June 6, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) directed what may be a last-ditch effort to avoid National Park Service (NPS) involvement in an ongoing controversy …

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River panel seeking zoning mediation

Posted

NARROWSBURG, NY — At its meeting June 6, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) directed what may be a last-ditch effort to avoid National Park Service (NPS) involvement in an ongoing controversy over the new zoning law in the Town of Highland.

Several months ago at a public hearing, the UDC brought to the Town of Highland’s attention that its new zoning law would not be in conformance with Land and Water Use Guidelines, which provide oversight for the inter-governmentally managed federal river park. A letter from the UDC urged the council to work with the organization to provide guidance before the next hearing. If the town is not in compliance, it will be required to submit all land-use decisions in the river corridor to the NPS.

At this recent meeting, the UDC considered Resource Specialist Peter Golod’s recommendation of another letter to the town providing its “final (negative) substantial conformance recommendation.” Highland delegate Andrew Boyar sought a “time-out” to find the reasons for and a solution to the problems that have led to a total breakdown of communications between UDC and the town.

Project Review Committee Chair Larry Richardson said the committee reached out to the town about the noncompliance “numerous times and didn’t get a response.”

Boyar said he’d spoken to Highland Supervisor Jeff Haas earlier and offered to mediate. “[Haas] indicated that he thought the town was in substantial compliance,” Boyar said.

Speaking at the town board’s June 11 meeting, Haas addressed the issue briefly, confirming that he and Boyar had “some preliminary discussion about it.”

Boyar implied that there may be room to negotiate, as he said Haas considers the zoning law a “living document.” Completion timing may have been involved initially Boyar said, as “the issue was a grant [funding the law] and getting an extension” on the completion deadline. “They may want to clean it up with their consultant,” Boyar said.

NPS spokesperson Carla Hauser-Hahn said it was important for the town to understand that they’re not in compliance. “Some haven’t read the compliance report, and the town hasn’t seen it. Whoever goes to the town should digest it,” she said. Highland’s falling out of compliance would mean additional reporting and NPS, rather than UDC, review of all town land-use decisions involving river boundary lands, she said.

After some additional debate and members’ statements in support of retaining Highland in the UDC, Boyar and Golod were directed to “confer over the Project Review Committee’s finding that the Highland’s new zoning law does not substantially conform to the Land and Water Use Guidelines” and “prepare an approach based on [Boyar’s] offer to mediate a meeting between town and UDC representatives… to take place within 30 days.”

That directive includes a review of the 26-page May Substantial Conformance Report, which outlines the issues point-by-point, offers recommendations to address each objective and documents all actions and communication attempts that have taken place since the draft zoning law was received on January 17.

Barnes Landfill

In other business, Lumberland delegate and Sullivan County Legislator Nadia Rajsz reported that Sullivan is looking at getting legal access to the former Barnes Landfill property through the court. If the county is successful, she felt some remediation money could be made available and the long-abandoned Town of Highland property might be returned to the tax rolls.

The UDC then addressed recently introduced PA HB 827, that would equate the Delaware River Basin Commission rule banning fracking to seizure by eminent domain and allow property owners compensation for their land. Steve Tambini, DRBC executive director, confirmed that the agency opposes the proposed legislation. Tambini declined further comment, noting that the issue is the subject of ongoing litigation.

Water safety

After compiling records of some 69 drowning deaths since the National Park Service record-keeping began in 1980, the Upper Delaware River has become the national model for personal flotation device (pfd) use, Boyar reported. Nationally, only 11.2% of boaters use pfds. In the Upper Delaware, the use level is 65%.

NPS superintendent

Hauser-Hahn reported that Marilou Ehrler assumed the role of acting superintendent at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River on May 12. Ehrler formerly served as chief of cultural resources at the Gateway National Recreation Area. She is temporarily replacing Kris Heister, who has accepted a four-month temporary position as superintendent at the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park.

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