By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
CATSKILL — A resolution by the Greene County Legislature urges the state to limit the ability of New York City agencies to purchase more land in Greene County.
The resolution, 13-22, was adopted unanimously at the Legislature’s January meeting, and adds Greene County to a petition by the Delaware County Board of Supervisors asking the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection to prevent the city from purchasing “large sections of stream buffer/corridors with restrictive conservation easements in perpetuity.”
Rather than purchasing additional land in the county, the Legislature supports an alternative plan that would allow the city to lease land, with local municipalities retaining the lease.
The Delaware County resolution was adopted Oct. 27.
The local resolution was moved by Greene County Legislator Greg Davis, R-Greenville, and seconded by Legislator Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie. All attending legislators voted in favor of the resolution, with Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, and Legislator Daryl Legg, D-Hunter, absent from the meeting.
A state Health Department mandate currently grants New York City the right to purchase and preserve up to 56,000 acres of privately owned land each year to protect the quality of drinking water in its reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains, according to the Legislature.
The city has purchased over 200 square miles of land under the Land Acquisition Plan. Opponents claim the city’s purchase of large tracts of Greene County land restricts development in the area.
“It has always been our mission to be responsible stewards of the natural resources within our community,” Acting Greene County Legislature Chairman Matt Luvera, R-Catskill, said in a statement. “We are the ones who live, work and raise families here, and we must have the ability to provide opportunities for, and improve the quality of life of, our residents. That’s why we need the DEP to limit its land acquisition and work within a voluntary, municipally approved Stream Corridor Acquisition Program.”
The Legislature is specifically concerned the city’s land purchases could impact municipalities’ ability to install and upgrade infrastructure that provides basic utilities; maintenance and upgrades to roads; siting, maintenance and expansion of stream crossings; flood mitigation and renewable energy projects, according to the Legislature.
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, who represents Greene County, supported the proposal to put more control into local hands.
“I have always been under the assumption that it’s best to let the locals do what’s best for their communities,” Tague said. “They’re the ones that are there doing the work, they’re the ones that know their people, they’re the ones that know what the possibilities are and [what] the opportunities are in the future.”
The proposed plan also requests that the Department of Environmental Protection limit its land and conservation easement acquisitions to specific areas in Greene County, according to the Legislature.