April 1, 2011

Roast beef dinner Saturday night

I can't say it more clearly than this:

The Varna Community Center will serve a Roast Beef Dinner on Saturday, April 2nd from 4-7PM. The menu includes generous and tasty portions of Roast Beef, Tossed Salad, Baked Potato with sour cream or Mashed Potatoes with gravy, Harvard Beets, Green Beans, Roll with Butter, Dessert, and Beverage. All for $10.00. Call ahead for reservations (280-9750) and receive a $1 discount. The Varna Community Center is located at 943 Dryden Road, Route 366, in the heart of Varna.

Posted by simon at 12:01 PM Comment

April 2, 2011

Tribulations and teepees

This morning's Ithaca Journal tells the story of Chris Muka and Common Land, Inc., mostly from their perspective. When we read the announcement for Common Land's auction, Angelika thought it was mostly an opportunity to pay taxes on the land so that Muka could continue to enjoy it, and I didn't think it could sell easily on those terms. It sounds like 1 of 23 parcels sold, so I don't feel too wrong about that. Apparently the county agrees enough on the tax issue to argue that Muka still needs to pay some taxes on the one parcel that did sell.

How could I have such doubts? I've only met him once, and while we didn't end up doing business with him, nothing terrible happened. We didn't think the land would work and access to it wasn't clear, so we didn't even get into his terms. I did know of his reputation beforehand, though, as the Dryden zoning and code folks had wondered about him before. (If I remember right the complaint was that he wanted them to act as real estate agents for his land.)

A few years ago, in a dispute with Groton over a condemned house of his, the Cortland Standard wrote a similar article. He did, in the end, finish work on that house, somehow accomplishing in a month - after a pretty unhappy Town Board meeting - what he'd inched toward for three years. Of course Gary Coats, the Groton Code/Fire Enforcement Officer noted:

this [Certificate of Occupancy] will be very unique. It will be one of the most unique I've ever signed because there is no requirement for electricity, no requirement for indoor plumbing, all of which are not required by New York State Code on single family homes. So, somebody looking at this is going to know right up front that they don't have electricity. They do have a septic, but they have a privy. But it's all to Code standards.

The teepees are nice, though. They don't really need electricity, I guess.

In other Dryden news, the Guthrie Clinic office on Royal Road evacuated for a few hours after a strange smell, and the Tompkins County economy seemed to do a little better in February.

Posted by simon at 5:03 PM Comment

April 5, 2011

Is Mount Varna stirring again?

Update: Here's the result of my FOIL request, as a set of PDF files. This one seems to be the key plan (3.4MB PDF), with more details here (1.7MB PDF).

Volcanos rise and fall, and often make their neighbors unhappy. This also seems to be true for the pile of fill often called "Mount Varna", the eyesore for years that the Town ordered removed in 2009, finally declining to a mostly flat lot in April.

On the northest corner of the intersection of Route 366 with Freese and Mount Pleasant Roads, this two-acre lot is extremely visible, famously "even uglier than what's across the street from it", and adds to the challenges drivers face getting through an already complicated intersection.

Mount Varna.
Mount Varna in October 2009.

Mount Varna in April 2010.
Mount Varna last April.

Mount Varna today.
Mount Varna today.

It's hard to tell in that last picture, but there's fresh work and new fill coming in. It's not a new mountain, and the new material seems to be getting built into the expanding plateau of fill.

The new work, the existing zoning welcoming dense development there, the location, the generally unpleasant history of the spot, and the Town's unwillingness to pass an actual moratorium has neighbors - myself included - concerned about what's going on here. Is Nick Bellisario trying to build something - potentially even something pretty large - in advance of the Varna Master Plan even getting started? Does Varna really need new construction to demonstrate why pausing for that Master Plan would have been useful? Will the Town Board actually pass a moratorium if this is new construction?

The Town won't say, so I've filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. I'll post results here.

Here's hoping it's just fill with no purpose yet set.

Posted by simon at 6:55 AM Comment

Gas drilling and mortgages

I'd missed this letter from Marie McRae of Dryden about gas drilling and mortgages:

[Mortgage resale] standards now require a minimum 200-foot distance (setback) between your house/garage/barn/water well and any surface or subsurface development by a gas company. This includes a gas well pad, access road, holding pond, pipeline, storage area or any other collateral uses. If a buyer wants/needs Federal Housing Administration insurance for the mortgage, the necessary setback increases to 300 feet.

In New York, the state's proposed setbacks for legal gas drilling activity are only 100 to 150 feet.

The Town is gathering grants from community groups for programs and infrastructure through April 22nd.

There's also a piece on Tompkins County's continuing growth in a part of Upstate that's largely shrinking. It's good that there's growth, but I'd add a caution: 600 to 900 residents a year isn't exactly bursting out. The caution at the end of the article seems wise:

"We're lucky so far," Hirschl said, but he said there are no guarantees for continued growth. "Just because we've been lucky so far doesn't mean we will continue to do well. We're talking about the past. I wouldn't necessarily project this out into future."

Posted by simon at 7:21 AM Comment

April 6, 2011

Highway histories

Every now and then I pause to reflect that the highway in front of my house has been there, in one form or another, for centuries, perhaps millenia. It was a path connecting Cayuga and Onondaga territory before it was expanded to become the Bridle Road, and then Dryden Road, and then Routes 9 and 13 for a while before becoming its current Route 366.

I've thought for a while that highways, much like railroads, deserved histories of their own. Old maps are fascinating, but there's less of an organized effort to keep track of what happened. Fortunately, it looks like Wikipedia has at least some solid foundations to explore on:

Road signs may not be as excited as the old railroad logos, but we'd be wise to remember their stories.

Posted by simon at 7:28 AM Comment

April 8, 2011

Weather station preview

After three decades or so of wanting one, I've finally planted a weather station in my back yard. I don't have to be the only person to see its data, though - you can get information overload from the current data, updating by the minute. It's using wview to collect and process the data.

It's not precisely attractive right now, and definitely not perfect - I need to level it for the rain collection to be accurate, and the rain data that's there is further screwed up by snow we had blocking it. The wind data is a little different because the anemometer is only five feet off the ground, but that's where it needs to be for us to calculate evapotranspiration. Still, it may be fun to look at.

(Also, Rose Day, Week, Year collect wind data over longer intervals so you get a sense of prevailing wind direction and strength. That'll be more useful when it's been running for longer.)

More soon!

Posted by simon at 7:47 AM Comment

April 9, 2011

Mount Varna gets a technicolor mailbox

First it was the teepee, and now this.

I thought I was hallucinating when I drove through Varna today, but no, this mailbox does seem to be real, though wild enough for three pictures:

Mount Varna mailbox from the east.
Mount Varna mailbox from the east.

Mount Varna mailbox from the north.
Mount Varna mailbox from the north.

Mount Varna mailbox from the west.
Mount Varna mailbox from the west.

I noted recent activity at Mount Varna, and put in a Freedom of Information Law request to find out more. I got back a large set of PDF files about the property's past and present. This one seems to be the key plan (3.4MB PDF), with more details here (1.7MB PDF).

The proposed 20-townhouse project in those is called the "Monkey Run Townhouse Project", which struck me as odd given that Monkey Run Road is about a half mile away. When I saw this, I wondered if it was some kind of weird protest. Now that I've realized that "SWPPP" likely stands for Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, I'm wondering if the developer's decided to show a sense of humor about the way the neighborhood's taken the handling of the property.

Update: It seems to be the latter. Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner reports that 'The Property Owner is in violation of his Storm Water Prevention Plan (SWPP) and is required to display the plan prominently onsite while remedying the violation. I guess the colors are his idea of "prominently."'

Posted by simon at 8:26 PM Comment

April 11, 2011

Dryden by the (CO2) numbers Tuesday

Dryden Solutions will be meeting tomorrow, April 12th, at 6:30pm at the Dryden Community Center Cafe to talk about Dryden and climate change. Here's this morning's announcement:

Hello Drydenistas,

If you are not yet actively helping to spread the word about reducing Dryden's energy use ...



  • Average amount of CO2 emitted by one Dryden home per year: 20 tons
  • Amount of CO2 the atmosphere can hold over time and still support a habitable planet for humans: 350 parts per million.
  • Amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere: 390 parts per million
  • Amount of CO2 used per house per year to get us back to 350ppm: 17 tons

We each need to eliminate at least 3 tons of CO2 that we emit through use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas, electricity made from these.)


(We know the answer to this question and we will share. It has to do with upgrading your home to reduce energy use.)

Please check all that apply:

  • I'm too busy; I don't have time.
  • I can't afford it.
  • I'm overwhelmed; it's too complicated.
  • My wife / husband doesn't believe in climate change.
  • None of my neighbors are doing it.
  • Maybe the planet would be better off without people anyway.
  • Change is too hard.
  • Excuse me, my phone is ringing.

DID YOU KNOW? FREE home energy audits www.nyserda.org/programs/energyaudit.asp

FREE or Cheap money to upgrade your home. www.ccetompkins.org/energypath

Your neighbors actually ARE doing it.

Come to the Cafe on Tuesday. Eat Good Soup (homemade). Talk Smart. Leave Excited.

Tuesday April 12th 6:30-8:00 at the Dryden Community Center Cafe.

Dryden Solutions.
Good People.
Good Talk.

Posted by simon at 7:06 AM Comment

April 12, 2011

No Place for a Woman

I never thought I'd use that as a headline, but it's the title of a Dryden Town Historical Society talk this Thursday:

In 2011 we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. Tales of famous battles and heroic efforts will be retold and reanalyzed. Unfamiliar stories will also come to light including the role women played on both sides of the battle lines. On Thursday, April 14th, Carol Kammen, will address this unheralded service in "No Place for a Woman: Civil War Nurses from Tompkins County." Ms. Kammen is the Tompkins County Historian who writes a weekly column for the Ithaca Journal and has published several books on local history.

Join the Dryden Town Historical Society at 7 PM in the Dryden Village Hall (at the corner of South and George Streets) to learn more about the invaluable contributions made by local women in caring for the wounded and the dying during the tragic years of the Civil War.

The doors will open at 6:30 PM and, as always, this event is free and open to all.

Posted by simon at 8:45 AM Comment

April 14, 2011

April 15, 2011

If you don't like density and you don't like sprawl...

Every now and then a comment meant to dismiss an idea leads to something much more interesting.

Wednesday night, Dryden Planning Director Dan Kwasnowski noted that he had just returned from an American Planning Association conference. As he summed it up:

Americans hate two things: they hate sprawl, and they hate density.

And then he laughed along with much of the board and the audience, because those two things are supposed to be opposites. In theory, this explains why zoning conversations are so difficult.

This morning, though, I realized that he'd summed up the fundamental reasons for my opposition to the proposed zoning changes. While many of the changes do simply rationalize the weirdly chaotic zoning we have now, the overall direction is targeted at creating denser sprawl: too dense to give residents a sense of privacy, too sprawling to create a critical mass that creates advantages more important than the loss of privacy.

It's a unique combination of those two supposed opposites, both of which, I agree, Americans generally dislike.

(How does it do this? With a mix of restrictions in some areas that might otherwise be more separated sprawl, along with new possibilities and encouragement for developing along the main transportation corridors of the town without worrying about achieving critical mass.)

Posted by simon at 12:43 PM Comment

April 18, 2011

Empty psychedelics

When I first saw the day-glo mailbox at 366 and Freese Road, I thought I was hallucinating. As it's stayed there, however, it's become clear that despite the colors, it's not a hallucination, but more a case of wearing a scarlet letter proudly. Boldly announcing itself as "Mount Varna", residents' harsh term for the pile, it reminds everyone who knows the story that there's been ugliness here for a long time. And the cryptic SWPPP on the top adds a touch of mystery, that might lead someone (who can get past the big "US Mail" on the front of the box) to open it.

Always empty mailbox.
Always empty mailbox.

There's nothing in it! There's supposed to be a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan in there (I think this one), but there isn't. I've checked it repeatedly over the course of the week, most recently this morning, and it just stays empty. It even blew over Saturday and was righted today, but still remains empty. (Yes, the Town is aware of its emptiness.)

I'm hard-pressed to come up with a more brilliant joke on the Town and Varna residents than this. Forced by the Town to do something, put up a vibrant protest that's nearly impossible to miss, while pretending that it's actually there because the Town wants it. Then leave out the substance, the reason that the whole thing is supposed to be there. Hopefully they'll take a more constructive approach to the remediation work itself than to the notification.

Unfortunately, even brilliant mockery isn't always funny. The message of this joke seems to be "hey look at me, I can do whatever I want!", and that's not exactly a great foundation for a long-term conversation.

On the bright side, you can now rent barbecue equipment (and maybe order more made) from the trailer parked on the corner:

BBQ equipment for rent.
BBQ equipment for rent.

Posted by simon at 7:31 AM Comment

Hog heaven?

Lately, I've mostly worried about threats to Dryden that come with large wallets and bad ideas, but some problems have humbler origins. This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that feral hogs are moving into the area, and "breeding in three New York counties -- Tioga, Cortland and Onondaga."

The Department of Environmental Conservation's response to the threat sounds decisive:

adopted a take-no-prisoners approach to their management.

The DEC is giving hunters and others almost blanket approval to kill the wild pigs on the spot.

The more expensive walk-in traps also sound promising.

I'm definitely going to have to consider some extra reinforcement for my deer fence, both to protect from digging and to discourage huge hogs from pushing right through. It's also another good reason to get a game cam out there, so I can see what's coming through.

On a very different note, I'm pretty sure I saw these folks walking up 366 yesterday afternoon on their protest march to Syracuse.

There's also an article on the back and forth on the hydrofracking debate. Somehow it doesn't notice the David and Goliath nature of the funding on the two sides of the battle. The Park Foundation may be environmentally minded, but it's a tiny pile of money that doesn't stand to make more money based on its efforts.

Posted by simon at 12:04 PM Comment

Absentee landlords and road widening

Tompkins Weekly's previous issue (4.8MB PDF) had a couple of articles on happenings outside of Dryden that seemed relevant here.

There was a piece on Jacksonville, a hamlet in Ulysses that seems to be suffering a plague much like the one Varna has dealt with for decades:

Many in the audience expressed a fear that Jacksonville has several older homes that are prime targets for absentee landlords. These landlords often purchase single-family homes, obtain zoning variances to turn them into multi-family dwellings and then neglect to maintain the properties or adequately or manage their tenants, residents said.

I wish them luck - that cycle of decay makes it very difficult even to maintain a neighborhood's respect even among residents of the same town. Pushing back against landlords whose primary interest is extracting cash without much interest in their properties is a difficult challenge.

If you've driven along Hanshaw Road into the Town of Ithaca recently, you may be wondering what the "We Like to Walk" and ""Say No to Eminent Domain". Page 7 of the same issue looks at different takes in the neighborhood regarding the County's plans to expand the road and add sidewalks. I found the next-to-last paragraph depressing:

Lampman agrees that speeds may increase once the pavement is replaced, but he says the county is initiating plans to enforce speed limits on Hanshaw and other roads where speeding is an issue. The county intends to preserve or replace landscaping to maintain the existing perception of road width, he adds. Crosswalks will be added at intersections west of Warren Road.

I look at the County's ever-shrinking budget, and I wonder how anyone can promise that there will be enforcement to prevent speeding that's built into the design of the road. Some enforcement? Probably. Enough enforcement to make drivers consistently drive at the posted speed instead of the design speed? Hard to imagine.

Posted by simon at 10:24 PM Comment

April 19, 2011

Close-ups and wide shots

[There is a Dryden hook to this story....]

It seems like half the point of protesting these days is disputing which side had more people there. Yesterday saw a "Tax Day" protest in downtown Ithaca outside of Congressman Maurice Hinchey's office, organized by Forward Thinking, the Ithaca Tea Party, while Democrats held a counter-protest across the street in front of the library.

The Ithaca Journal reports 25 Tea Party protesters and 85 or 90 counter-protesters, though they note that some of the counter-protesters joined after a rally about taxing Bank of America.

Visit One of Nine's brief article, though, and you get a very different set of pictures. Five counter-protesters (two from Dryden), and about eighteen Tea Party protesters. Going for a close-up sure can make the opposite side look smaller.

Posted by simon at 6:58 AM Comment

Weather station now on Weather Underground

If you prefer to get your weather through a comprehensive site like Weather Underground rather than a one-point site like mine, you can have the best of both worlds: my station is now on Weather Underground.

If you go, for example, to the page for Freeville, there's a "Station Select" button near the top right of "Weather at a Glance". You can pick a nearby weather station, mine included. (The Simms Hill station has a webcam, though!)

The Weather Underground data updates less frequently - every half-hour - than my own little site, and has less data, but it's definitely more convenient for forecasts and radar.

(Weather Underground has a page on how to do this. I'd be happy to help anyone in Dryden who wants to join the fun.)

Posted by simon at 7:50 AM Comment

State takes the edge off school budget pain

It still doesn't sound delightful, but the school budget story seems slightly less dire than before as the state restored some funding to districts.

Dryden has four candidates up for three school board seats, while Ithaca schools are still accepting candidate petitions through April 27th.

It looks like treating hydrofracking wastewater in ordinary sewage treatment plants really wasn't a good idea. (Much more detail here.)

Finally, Murray Cohen of Dryden asks if it might be "a fine symbolic gesture if members of Congress voted to cut their salaries in half for the rest of this year and all of 2012?"

Posted by simon at 9:59 PM Comment

April 20, 2011

Dryden Town Board meets tonight at 7:00

The Town of Dryden website still refers to February and March meetings, but there is an April Town Board meeting tonight at 7:00pm at the Dryden Town Hall, 93 East Main Street (Route 392), Dryden. I expect it will be pretty full, as the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition will be presenting their petition to ban hydrofracking in the Town.

Posted by simon at 7:27 AM Comment

Dryden is worth defending

Tonight was an amazing meeting - over a hundred people showed up, and over twenty spoke. The Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition presented 1594 signatures on their petition to ban hydrofracking in the Town. The Town passed a resolution calling for work toward a local law that would accomplish that through zoning. The Town also passed a Sound Performance Standards law, and didn't quite introduce a proposal for a moratorium on development in the area being studied for the Varna Master Plan.

I'll have more on all of that - I'm guessing I may have a month worth of stories from that one meeting. For now, since it's almost midnight, I'll settle for cutting and pasting in what I said to the Town Board myself this evening:

I would like to congratulate the board on its generally excellent handling of day-to-day administration and running a government, as well as on its recent steps toward vastly improving broadband availability across the Town.

Unfortunately, while the Town does an excellent job on projects that maintain or improve life in the Town of Dryden, it also often fails at defending against threats that could make such improvements irrelevant.

Powerful forces with unfortunate ideas keep showing up and threatening to change Dryden for the worse. The Board's response to these proposals over the past few years has frequently been tepid, and even at its strongest, delayed. The Board seems continually to hope for the best, naively dreaming that accomodating these powerful people and industries with dire reputations, perhaps trimming around the edges of their bad ideas, will somehow make things better.

Meanwhile, residents and neighborhoods know that they take the loss if things go wrong.

Please take clear and decisive action to keep the worst from happening while you research long-term solutions. Please stop forgetting about the damage these players have already wrought in their past endeavors. Please demonstrate to residents that the Town is on their side, not the side of whoever comes to town with dreams of making piles of money here.

Moving slowly on complex issues like Varna development and hydrofracking may seem like a prudent option, but delays are gambling with our futures. We may not live in a storybook paradise, but Dryden is worth defending. This land, these people, are worth defending.

Thank you.

Update: It's not me (phew!) but there's even a bit of video already available of tonight's meeting.

Posted by simon at 11:36 PM Comment

April 21, 2011

Fracking-related actions the Town Board took last night

The Dryden Town Board passed two things last night: a sound performance standards amendment to zoning, and a resolution about drafting an amendment that "addresses land uses that would impose or threaten to impose significant adverse impacts upon the Dryden community, including without limitation heavy truck traffic, noise, air, and water pollution, and the generation of a significant amount of wastes".

The sound performance standards (available here (72KB PDF)) have been moving through for a while, though Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner made clear that this isn't the end of the process for these. There is more work to be done, particularly on subsonic noise.

Passing the standards was a bit confused. There was a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting with no comment, and the board passed them at the end. Then the board had to rescind that passage. They'd thought that no State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) was needed, but it was. They then worked through the SEQR and passed the amendment 5-0.

The resolution on moving forward is more a roadmap to arriving at legislation than legislation itself. Most notable for me is its explicit call to work with attorneys for neighboring towns:

April 20, 2011

Motion by Cl Leifer, Councilperson to adopt the following resolution.

WHEREAS, a great number of the citizens of the Town of Dryden has expressed concern that the use of land within the Town for heavily industrialized methane gas drilling may bring negative impacts to the community, including without limitation traffic congestion, air, water and noise pollution, and severe damage to roads; and

WHEREAS, heavily industrialized methane gas drilling is a new type of land use in New York, and the Town's current land use regulations were not specifically designed to address the heavy industrial land uses and related facilities that are associated with such heavily industrialized gas drilling; and

WHEREAS, other municipalities in our region, including the Towns of Ithaca and Ulysses, are in the process of considering and evaluating the adoption of land use laws that would prohibit the imposition of burdens, costs and negative impacts on citizens and property owners that would likely otherwise result from such heavy industrial land uses; and

WHEREAS, the Town Board of the Town of Dryden is empowered under the New York State Constitution, the Municipal Home Law Rule, the Statute of Local Governments and the Town Law to adopt local laws for the protection, safety, health and well-being of persons and property within the Town, and to enact zoning regulations.


RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Dryden finds it appropriate and necessary to consider adopting land use laws that address the valid planning, zoning, safety, aesthetic and other community impacts that could otherwise result from such heavy industrial land uses; and

RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Dryden finds it appropriate and necessary to consider adopting land use laws that would prohibit the imposition of burdens, costs and negative impacts on citizens and property owners that would likely otherwise result from such heavy industrial land uses; and

RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Dryden hereby authorizes Councilperson Leifer to draft a local law, for consideration by the Town Board, that addresses land uses that would impose or threaten to impose significant adverse impacts upon the Dryden community, including without limitation heavy truck traffic, noise, air, and water pollution, and the generation of a significant amount of wastes; and

RESOLVED, the Town Board of the Town of Dryden authorizes Councilperson Leifer to consult with the municipal attorneys for the Town of Ithaca and the Town of Ulysses, and other attorneys of his choosing, as he undertakes to draft this local law (provided, however, that no such legal consultants shall bill the Town for their services in such regard); and

RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Dryden directs the Attorney for the Town, Mr. Mahlon Perkins, to complete his review of the proposed zoning amendment banning heavy industrial methane gas drilling presented to Ulysses and previously forwarded to his attention by the Town Supervisor, and subsequently to review the draft of the local law prepared by Councilperson Leifer upon its completion, and to report to the Town Board on the legal sufficiency of the draft law prepared by Councilperson Leifer.

You can see a some video of the passage of this resolution.

Posted by simon at 6:39 AM Comment

DRAC press release

I've posted the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition (DRAC)'s press release (33KB Word document) and accompanying photo, but here's the core of the release:

DRAC announces the results of a petition drive to ban fracking, calls on the Dryden Town Board to pass a protective zoning ordinance; Town Board unanimously passes resolution to move forward with drafting an ordinance.

On Wednesday April 20, 2011, the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition (DRAC) announced the results of its town-wide public petition drive calling for a ban on high volume, slickwater hydrofracking for gas extraction in the Town of Dryden.

The announcement, that 1,594 Dryden residents have signed the petition to date, took place during the monthly meeting of the Dryden Town Board, shortly after 7:00 pm at Dryden Town Hall, 93 East Main Street, Dryden NY 13053. The hall was packed by over 100 people, the overwhelming majority of whom were there to show their support for a zoning ordinance that would ban the heavy industrial uses associated with high volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing (photo attached).

As leader of the petition drive, Dryden resident and DRAC member Marie McCrae handed over the thick stack of signed petitions, and described the carefully coordinated signature collection process carried out over a 4-month period by 30 petitioners throughout the depths of winter. With the other core DRAC members standing behind her, McRae called on the Dryden Town Board to pass a zoning ordinance that would exclude high-impact industrial uses from the township.

During the next hour, almost 30 people rose to speak for two minutes each on their concerns and the need for this ordinance. Long-time Dryden resident Buzz (Mitchell) Lavine said, "The federal and state governments cannot protect us. The power to do that is right here in this room." Lavine has lived in Tompkins County for 48 years, in Dryden for 39, and served on the Town of Dryden Planning Board for 20 years. One audience member warned of the possibility of a lawsuit against the town by a big gas company, to which attorney David Slottje rejoined that there is long legal history in New York State to back up a local town's legal right to zone out unwanted uses.

Following the public's input, Dryden Town Board member Jason Leifer introduced a motion to approve a resolution directing him to draft an ordinance with input from town attorneys from Dryden and neighboring towns. Board member David Makar swiftly seconded the motion, and with little discussion the resolution was unanimously approved by Makar, Leifer, Board members Joe Solomon and Steve Stelick, and Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner.

The room erupted in cheers, clapping and hoots, with more than one dignified middle-aged person jumping up and down and dancing around. The crowd quieted quickly to hear Supervisor Sumner's instructions to Leifer to commence the drafting process. She also told the audience to prepare for upcoming public hearings over the next one to two months prior to a final vote on a completed ordinance. At 9:10 pm the crowd slowly dispersed, leaving the Board to conduct the rest of the town's monthly business.

Background on the proposed zoning ordinance

According to Helen and David Slottje, attorneys with the Community Defense Council Inc. who have developed zoning language for a proposed ordinance of this type, "Our recommendation to New York state municipalities seeking to preserve their character and avoid industrialization is to adopt a zoning law or amendment that specifically prohibits high-im¬pact industrial uses within the mu¬nicipality, and to utilize a definition of "high-impact industrial use" which encompasses unconventional gas drilling and any other uses deter¬mined to be inimical to the munici¬pality's desired character and goals."

Wording of the petition

The petition states:

"To: Town Board of the Town of Dryden, Tompkins County, NY:

We, the undersigned residents of the Town of Dryden, believe that high volume, slickwater hydrofracking for gas extraction threatens our water and our air.

Allowing this practice in our community will significantly endanger our health and well-being.

Hydrofracking is a heavily industrialized process that in surrounding states has snarled traffic and caused significant air, water and noise pollution, and severe damage to roads and other infrastructure. In many places it has had deleterious effects on tourism, hunting, fishing, agriculture and the local economy in general.

We urge the Town Board to ban slickwater hydrofracking in the Town of Dryden."

Concerns in line with Dryden Comprehensive Plan

The concerns expressed by DRAC and Dryden residents about protecting the future of their town are in line with Dryden's Comprehensive Plan, adopted in December 2005.

The goals and objectives listed in the Plan include preserving the rural and small town character of the Town of Dryden and the quality of life its residents enjoy; promoting the long-term economic viability of the agricultural community in the town and preserving agricultural land resources; and preserving the natural open space resources, environmentally sensitive areas and unique flora and fauna of the town. These are long-established Dryden characteristics that would quickly wither under the onslaught of gas drilling activities.

Also, the Comprehensive Plan's goals and objectives pertaining to housing and residential development, commercial development, economic development, parks and recreation, and public safety would be crippled by the advent of heavy industrial activities in Dryden.

"Over 1500 Dryden residents are calling on the Dryden Town Board to stand up and be our heroes," say DRAC members Deborah and Joanne Cipolla-Dennis. "If fracking comes to Dryden, we won't have a choice - we'll have to leave. But we don't want to leave, so we are asking the Town Board to protect the Town that we all love so much by passing this zoning ordinance as soon as possible."

Dryden residents are still encouraged to sign the petition, either online at http://petitiononline.com/nofrack or by contacting DRAC for a copy of the petition.

Posted by simon at 6:54 AM Comment

New Town of Dryden website

The Town has updated its website with a new look, though my favorite feature is that I no longer have to open it and then do something else for a while waiting for it to load. There is, as always, lots of information there.

Posted by simon at 8:47 AM Comment

April 22, 2011

More on Dryden, hydrofracking

Today's Ithaca Journal reports on Wednesday night's presentation of 1594 signatures on a petition to ban hydrofracking.

There's also a piece on Dryden events discussing details of leasing and termination to be held April 28th and May 12th.

Several of the speakers at Wednesday's Town Board meeting mentioned the Chesapeake well blowout in LeRoy, Pennsylvania. The Journal reports that Chesapeake has stopped the flow of liquids and claims there will be little impact on Towanda Creek, but has stopped fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

In brighter news, the Cayuga Bird Club will be meeting at Dryden Lake this Saturday, April 23rd, at 7:30am "to enjoy early spring migration".

Posted by simon at 12:12 PM Comment

April 23, 2011

WENY TV on Dryden hydrofracking ban petition

WENY TV, one of the stations I watched a lot of growing up in Corning, leads with a report on the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition's presentation of a petition to the Town Board. It's a 2-minute spot, well worth watching.

Posted by simon at 8:33 AM Comment

April 25, 2011

Hydrofracking discussion audio from last Wednesday

I still need to write up an index to this, but I've posted the audio recording of last week's Town Board meeting from the presentation of the DRAC petition through the citizen's privilege discussion and the passage of the resolution in support of developing a local law.

It's 74MB (and 1 hour, 13 minutes) long, and available in either QuickTime MOV or M4V format.

Posted by simon at 7:04 AM Comment

You can't touch this (technicolor mailbox remix)

This just gets funnier and funnier, though the joke's probably on me.

I noticed that the Mount Varna technicolor mailbox had fallen over again, I guess from the winds on Saturday, and wondered what its next act would be.

It's now stoutly defended by signs. There's a POSTED sign right on the barrel, and it's behind CAUTION and DANGER signs for the site along Route 366.

Stay away from the technicolor mailbox.
Stay away from the technicolor mailbox.

Is there a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan in there, like there's supposed to be? I don't know - I didn't check. It felt like trespassing. Oh well.

Posted by simon at 12:58 PM Comment

April 26, 2011

Ithaca Garden Sale moves to Dryden this year

We've bought a fair number of plants at this sale, and always recommend it.

New Location for Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale (5/14)

Due to ongoing construction at Ithaca High School, this year's annual Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale will be held at a NEW LOCATION -- the New York State Armory, 1765 Hanshaw Road (off Rt. 13) in Ithaca -- on Saturday, May 14 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The Armory site includes ample and easily accessed parking, a large indoor room for gardening groups, and outdoor space for more than 40 growers and gardening groups that will participate this year. Admission is FREE and visitors are encouraged to bring carts or wagons to aid in transporting their plant purchases to their cars.

The Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale features a wide variety of vendors from our region who offer specialty plants and gardening advice on topics ranging from growing rock garden plants to selecting native species for the garden. Plants for sale include organically grown and heirloom vegetable transplants, colorful annuals, fragrant herbs, hanging baskets, small flowering shrubs, hardy roses, fruit crops, evergreens, and specialty perennials. Master Gardeners from CCE-Tompkins and other community groups participate in the Fair to raise funds through plant sales, and to create awareness of their programs.

For more information, call Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County at (607) 272-2292 or email Monika Roth at mr55@cornell.edu. An up-to-date list of participating growers and groups is available online at http://ccetompkins.org/plantsale.

Posted by simon at 7:18 AM Comment

But the state thinks we have broadband!

Bad maps often explain bad decision-making, but maybe we can stop that early. Dryden Daily KAZ looks at New York State's rose-colored take on broadband availability. I seem to get about a quarter of what the state thinks Time-Warner provides here, and Verizon's never actually offered the service listed here when I've checked. (Just checked again - no Internet available here from Verizon.)

There is an "Is this correct?" button on the map results that lets you send an email. The state also has a speed tester that they don't seem to have integrated with this, at least not yet.

Posted by simon at 8:00 AM Comment

Hydrofracking ban discussion

Yesterday, I posted a 74MB (and 1 hour, 13 minutes) long audio recording of the part of Wednesday's Town Board meeting dealing with hydrofracking (QuickTime audio). It's probably more fun with an index, so here goes:

  • DRAC presents - 00:00

  • Petition language (photo) - 01:30

  • Petition lands - 02:57

  • Length of time for speakers - 04:16

  • Sequence of events after this meeting - 06:13

  • Christopher Bauerle - 07:05

  • Buzz Lavine (photo) - 10:35

  • Bill Klepack (photo) - 12:44

  • Hilary Lambert (photo) - 16:46

  • Tereska Cornic - 17:45

  • Lois Goss - 20:20

  • Peter Davies - 21:57

  • Martha Wilson (photo) - 24:09

  • Joanne Cipolla-Dennis - 26:26

  • Simon St.Laurent - 29:29

  • Henry Kramer (photo) - 31:08

  • Bob Jacobson (photo) - 33:30

  • Todd Bittner (photo) - 36:27

  • Martha Ferger (photo) - 39:09

  • Greg Bostwick - 41:13

  • Martha Fischer - 42:30

  • Charles Geisler (photo) - 44:09

  • Linda Lavine (photo) - 46:40

  • Mary Ann Sumner (photo) - 49:49

  • Helen Slottje (Ithaca - photo) - 52:20

  • Dean Brusso - 53:45

  • Bob Armstrong - 55:02

  • Becca Harper (Danby/Newfield) - 56:22

  • Dominic Frongillo (Caroline) - 58:12

  • Henry Kramer - 01:00:03

  • Chris Bauerle - 01:01:37

  • Peter Davies - 01:03:30

  • David Slottje - 01:04:47

  • Jason Leifer moves, reads resolution (photo) - 01:07:20

  • David Makar seconds - 01:10:52

  • Sumner notes received afternoon - 01:11:50

  • Vote - 01:12:05 (turn volume down - applause coming!)

  • Comments, contact info, comments - 01:12:28

Please let me know if I've misspelled or mistaken any names, or botched a time.

Crowd at April 20th Town Board meeting
Crowd at April 20th Town Board meeting.

DRAC presents petition
Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition presents 1594 signatures supporting hydrofracking ban.

I've posted a gallery of images from that discussion - sorry it doesn't include every speaker.

Posted by simon at 12:20 PM Comment

April 29, 2011

Dragons move from Etna to here

I've always loved Etna potter Gary Rith's work, and when I saw this dragon, I couldn't resist. Angelika loves dragons, especially floppy-eared dragons, so I wrote Gary and asked if that was possible.

He made two, and today I brought them home:

Dragons for Angelika

Such happy, cheerful creatures - and they've made Angelika happy and cheerful too!

I didn't even realize that carnivorous dragons were available.

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM Comment

Etna post office "studied for possible discontinuance"

While I was delighted to pick up some dragons in Etna today, I was a lot less happy to hear from Gary that the Etna Post Office may not be with us long. I stopped by the Post Office, and sure enough...

Notices in Etna Post Office.
Notices in Etna Post Office.

The Etna Community Association's annual meeting will be May 3 at 7:00pm, but the left notice is less happy. Here's the full text of the Post Office notice:


Services at the Etna Post Office are being studied for possible discontinuance.

Postal Representatives will be at the Etna Post Office Lobby, Etna, NY 13062 on 05/05/2011 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM to discuss alternative services available to the community, the service you now receive, and what effect officially discontinuing the Etna Post Office will have on customers and the community.

We look forward to meeting with you to discuss this important matter.

The first paragraph is "studied for possible", but the second paragraph sounds like they've already concluded the study and are just saying what happens next. I guess we'll find out on the 5th.

Posted by simon at 12:20 PM Comment