DeWitt: Zoning changes proposed

Even though it was not on the agenda, the proposed Jamesville gasification plant dominated the DeWitt Town Board's June 11 meeting.

But as the meeting began, Councilor Ed Michalenko proposed a moratorium on further development within certain zones. He is also requesting a legal opinion concerning the proposed zone changes in an effort to slow down the process until more information can be obtained.

"My concern is that the town is exposed, and I don't see this proposal going away overnight," Michalenko said. The board agreed to review the proposal.

Town Supervisor Jim DiStefano suggested that residents against the coal plant should consider buying the property, either with their own money or seek help from the state.

"We need to put our money where our mouth is," DiStefano said.

This drew a reaction from the 50 or so residents and Jamesville Positive Action Committee (JAM-PAC) members attending the meeting. Vicki Baker, head of JAM-PAC, a group adamantly opposed to the project, responded, "It is an insult to the members of this community to simply tell us to buy it."

Distefano noted that Empire Synfuel Project Supervisor Jack Loveland has no intention of retracting the Jamesville proposal because of last week's announcement. Transgas Development Systems, parent company of Empire Synfuels LLC, proposed a coal plant twice the size to be built in Scriba, putting the Jamesville project on hold.

"Just because [Transgas Development Systems] is going to Scriba doesn't mean they'll use us as bargaining chips," said Councilor John Schroder.

Citizens continued to voice their concerns about the plant for the next 40 minutes of the meeting.

In response to a question regarding zoning changes, DiStefano responded, "We're dealing with a plan that was zoned industrial; we can't zone the property residential. If we do that and it turns out unlawful, the town has major exposure that insurance will not cover."

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