DeWitt: Tabled moratorium stirs controversy

A moratorium that would restrict industrial land use at the potential site of a new energy plant in DeWitt was addressed, and tabled, at the Aug. 13 town board meeting. The zoning provision, which would block plans for a new energy plant in DeWitt, will be decided at the next board meeting scheduled for Monday Aug. 27.

The moratorium was shelved because the town board had not yet received approval from the county zoning board. Had it passed, the moratorium would have created a six month period in which all applications for new industrial facilities in the area would be put on hold, namely the proposal by Empire Synfuel to build a coal gasification plant in DeWitt.

Open statements were made to the board from both sides of the debate. Jack Loveland, former CEO of O'Brien and Gere Engineers, opposed the moratorium, citing positive impacts that new industrial projects have had in the past for Syracuse and its surrounding municipalities. Vicki Baker, the head of the Jamesville Positive Action Committee (JAM-PAC) and long-term opponent of the project, argued that the coal plant would bring in 100 more rail cars a day and represented "bad planning" for the town.

"As you see in DeWitt, there is very little land left, and what is left is being developed," Baker said. "This is our future that you're going to be shaping," Baker said.

John Murphy, who owns the land that the coal plant would be constructed on, said to the board that the project would bring in millions of dollars in taxes, and that any use of the land other than industrial use would not be economically feasible. In vehement opposition of the moratorium, Murphy accused Jam-PAC of distributing false information and asked the board to allow the residents of Jamesville to receive what they "need and deserve."

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