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Supreme Court Overturns Schoharie Zoning Laws

Written By Editor on 2/26/14 | 2/26/14

Ruling that the Town of Schoharie's adoption of Local Law 2-2005 was, "arbitrary and capricious and affected by an error of law," Schoharie County Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine rendered the zoning laws null and void in a decision handed down on Wednesday, February 19th. The case had been before the Court since 2005. 

Arguing that the Town of Schoharie failed to properly comply with requirements set forth by SEQRA, Cobleskill Stone Products successfully made the case that local lawmakers flouted environmental review standards in the course of adopting the zoning laws. Their repeal is a major victory in Cobleskill Stone's fight to expand mining operations, which had previously been set back by a Court decision on August 21st, 2013 that found they did not have, "vested rights to expand its mining activities to adjacent parcels."

According to Wednesday's decision, town officials submitted two Negative Declarations with either incomplete environmental assessments, or none at all. In addition, the law permitted numerous activities that were not previously allowable in local Agriculture Districts, including manufacturing, telecommunications, technology and research development, etc.

Town officials disputed Cobleskill Stone's arguments by stating the 2005 law was the, "culmination of several years' worth of consideration and consultation with other agencies on the potential environmental impact of the zoning revisions," and therefore, felt it unnecessary to prepare a draft EIS and the negative declarations were drafted and published.

However, Judge Devine would find the town's arguments unsatisfactory as the minutes provided, "offer no insight as to the discussions or deliberations that lead to this conclusion." He would later add that, "the onus of strict compliance with SEQRA procedural requirements was not placed upon CSP, but rather, was an obligation that rested solely with the Board."

Last week's ruling will not be the end of this ongoing dispute; as Cobleskill Stone is in the process of appealing the August decision, the Town of Schoharie must decide what their next course of action will be, and in the meanwhile, the town's zoning laws have been reversed to 1970's standards, possibly complicating 21st century development. 
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