Cohocton eyes ‘home rule’ issues

Jeff Miller
Jack Zigenfus

With all the attention on possible bans on hydrofracking, the  took a different step last month.

Town Supervisor Jack Zigenfus said in December he is looking at “home rule” issues, which have been brought to the town recently.

Zigenfus said the town is waiting to see what the final Department of Environmental Conservation’s recommendations are, plus receive recommendations from the town and village planning board before going further with discussing a moratorium.

Town attorney Pat McAllister said there is complexity at this time on the state constitutional home rule – a municipality’s right to pass local zoning laws – regarding hydrofracking.

McAllister said a local law in the town of Middlefield, which forbade fracking in the entire township, is being challenged in court because the gas company argues the state has preempted control of the issue, allowing hydrofracking to commence.

The towns are arguing, under home rule law, that they have a right to enact its own zoning laws. “So it’s a matter of interpretation,” McAllister said. “It’s really not a position for or against hydrofracking. Do the towns and villages have a right to set their own zoning laws, own land-use laws, or can the state preempt and say you have no say in it, as to what happens in your town or village, and is it a state matter? That’s really what the issue is.”

Councilman Wayne Hunt said the underlying issue regarding the development of the wind farm was the town’s right to hash out zoning, taxing and other issues with the wind developer. Zigenfus added that the state has since come in and preempted the siting process of new commercial wind development.

“From what I read...I just think it’s something we should support,”?Zigenfus said.