If You Like Natural Gas, Campbell Says “No Soup for You”
Steuben County Land Owners Coalition
My name is Dana Knowles. I am a member of the Steuben County Land Owners Coalition. I have always been proud to say that I am a life long resident of the Town of Campbell. I can now honestly say, for the first time in my life, that I am ashamed of that. Following the Town Board meeting of March 12, which included a public hearing on a proposed two year moratorium on natural gas “man camps,” I have simply lost almost all my pride in my town. It demonstrated to me just how fragile our property rights are, given local officials’ apparent lack of appreciation for how the natural gas industry works. They also seem blind to the importance of the economic development it can offer to our area.
There were about thirty people at the hearing on the “man camps” moratorium. Some ten or twelve spoke on the issue and, importantly, not a single one spoke in favor of this ill-conceived moratorium. All the speakers pointed out different potential negative effects of such a vote, or they stressed that there was no need for such a move in view of existing town, and state, building and zoning laws. A member of the town’s own planning board who recognized this, said ” this is the dumbest thing you can do.”
The board members asked no questions during the public comment period. After the supervisor closed the comment period, the board just voted on the resolution. The vote was four to one in favor! Each of those four, to the best of my knowledge, own less than one acre of land. Yet, they decided against the interests of all the other land owners and businesses who might benefit from a “man camp” and other aspects of natural gas development. The land owners coalition alone has membership within the Town of Campbell that represents over 25,000 acres. It simply didn’t matter.
It’s usually pretty easy, in a small town, to learn what motivates folks and, in our town it looks like one of the town board members had a large field by his house that he did reportedly did not want a “man camp” in! This is how a policy that could negatively affect the economic development interests of the entire town was decided! It’s frightening to think how property rights can be dismissed on whim and speculation.
What you had in Campbell was four people deciding, for their own narrow purposes, an issue that could have very broad effects on all it’s citizens. To at least some degree, this is a classic example of why states have cut off, or limited, so many “rights” of towns or townships to pass zoning laws that seem to directly effect so many different business and landowners’ interests. It was four out of five board members going against the unanimous opposition of the 29 to 30 citizens who attended the meeting in Campbell! The law didn’t matter. Our property didn’t matter. Public opinion didn’t matter. It was simply “no soup for you” if you favored natural gas development. No wonder the state reserves so many things to itself to decide. Who can blame it, when local government acts so irresponsibly?