A Slottje By Any Other Name
Last week, the Town of Sidney, Delaware County, New York, held its monthly town board meeting. The meeting’s turnout was far smaller than the public hearing the board held a couple weeks ago on the proposed draft of the natural gas moratorium, but the audience still filled the room and split about 70-30 in support of natural gas exploration. Read on to find out the latest on this proposed moratorium.
Delaware Planning Board Tells Sidney It’s Out of Step
In New York, before a land use law of any type can be voted upon, it must first be sent to the county planning agency for review and comment (see our earlier article on this subject). Sidney’s draft moratorium had been submitted to the Delaware County Planning Board prior to this meeting and that agency made a thorough review. When a county planning agency decides, as in this case, that there are serious problems that can create intergovernmental conflicts, they can effectively require a town to employ a supermajority to enact it (a 4-1 or 5-0 vote). Sidney’s moratorium presented several such issues. The following video addresses the Delaware County Planning Board’s review of the proposed moratorium and their recommendations. Pay special attention to the portion describing how the Slottje’s (of the Park Foundation funded CEDC) handiwork in this instance was internally self-contradictory and how little attention was paid to the town’s comprehensive plan and Delaware County’s economic strategy.
Once again, a representative from Amphenol Aerospace attended the meeting. A moratorium would seriously harm Amphenol and company representatives have been to numerous meetings expressing their concerns. They have been through a great deal given the recent floods, and staying in Sidney is risky for them without a moratorium. A natural gas ban that sends the message Sydney is closed for business could be the last straw for Amphenol. You can hear what they have to say in the video below.
The Public Speaks Out
The board gave people the opportunity to speak if they had comments and were on the agenda. Some quickly spoke out against the moratorium, stating Sidney does not need one. Listen as this man asks questions and comments on the misinformation circulating about Dimock and other communities. He urges the board to stick to the facts and not get swept up in the emotional hype.
Those opposed to natural gas development falsely claim a moratorium is needed because of the time they claim it will take to enact road use agreements and other laws to protect the town. Should Sidney choose to reinvent the wheel and draft an entirely new road use agreement it could, of course, take months but there is no need to do so. Many other towns across the state already have solid examples to follow. Mirroring another town’s road use agreements would shorten this time frame drastically. Just up the road in Afton, New York, is one such example. They repealed an ill-advised road preservation agreement and enacted a new one last year.
Where Did You Come From?
This was all followed by a very interesting turn of events when one councilman petitioned to let an attorney present a revised version of the moratorium to the board. He introduced her as “Helen Holden” although we all know her by her married name of Helen Slottje. If you watch no other clips in this post, please take a moment to see this one.
Where do we start with the issues involved in this short clip, all of which occurred prior to “Helen Holden” ever pleading her case.
First, there is the timing associated with when the document was received by the planning board. When asked a question earlier this same councilman said he just received the document that afternoon and couldn’t answer the question (not seen in this clip). Yet, when pleading for Miss Holden to speak, he argues they spent all night and the entire day revising the draft to be ready for the meeting, leading one to believe he did actually review it quite extensively. If that’s speculation on my part, it’s based on some well-documented facts.
The Supervisor asked how much time Holden needed to speak and joked that the last man who said he only needed 5 minutes spoke for an hour. Notice how Miss Holden laughs nervously and a little too vigorously at the joke. That’s because the person to whom he’s referring to is none other than her husband, David Slottje, who addressed the board with the first draft. Of course, by executing a quick switcheroo on her surname for the evening, Helen was able hide all that.
But that’s not all. In the view, watch as Mrs. Slottje attempts to assert that she was asked to attend the Sidney meeting by the town supervisor, much to the astonishment of Bob MacArthur, Sidney’s actual town supervisor. Uh, oh!
Miss Holden, having made a bit of a misstep there, quickly tries to recover — passing the assertion off as a verbal typo rather a boldface misrepresentation. In fact, aside from the councilman, the other members of the board — including the supervisor — were shocked Slottje (aka Holden) was there. They had no idea she was invited at all.
Flubbing the Lines, Stumbling Along
Most board members made it clear: this was exactly the opposite of what they wanted the night to turn into. If they opted to accept the revised new draft, it would mean they would have to start the whole process again from the beginning. The draft would need to be available for seven days and posted, followed by another public hearing, before resubmitting it to the Delaware County Planning Board.
The board member who invited Slottje expected the board to accept the new draft without even reading the document. He asked them to try submitting the new version to the Delaware County Planning Board as soon as possible. All other members of the board were clearly against that, indicating that they hadn’t even had a chance to review the proposal. There was only one copy of the moratorium and it was given to the board member who invited Slottje.
Making matters even worse, on the one copy, Slottje had personally added in a couple extra provisions before submitting it to the board that morning, changes she eventually realized needed to be made before the draft could be resubmitted. Some folks found it hard to believe that going the process of updating and resubmitting the moratorium document only took 48 hours, whilst it takes nearly a year for the town to create a successful road use agreement.
In the end, the board was shocked that Holden/Slottje showed up to its meeting with the amended copy of the moratorium draft. Decisions on next steps for Sidney have yet to be made. As long as the Delaware Co. Planning Board continues to monitor these moratoria, most DelCo. towns will need to make changes or have a supermajority vote. Enacting a moratorium in Delaware County will be more difficult and not so rapid fire.
The county also plans to monitor the towns’ progress if a moratorium is accepted to ensure the board is doing everything they claimed they needed the time to do. We’ll keep you posted on how this situation evolves as information becomes available.
All in all, it was not a good night for antis in Sidney. Their star witness pretended to be someone else, flubbed her lines and couldn’t recover from her (or was it his) stumble in drafting the legislation after the county pointed out the obvious flaws. Everyone on their side went away mad, as the saying goes, but the good people of Sidney and the rule of law triumphed. At least on this night, chalk one up for the good guys.