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What goes on in Spafford stays in Spafford — or does it?

letter to the editor

Spafford is one of the best kept secrets in Onondaga County. Few people have ever heard of Spafford, much less know where it is. It’s rural. Farm lands abound. It also harbors two major watersheds: Skaneateles Lake and Otisco Lake.

Towns surrounding Skaneateles and Otisco Lakes have either already banned high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), in zoning parlance, a “heavy industrial activity,” or are involved in doing so. HVHF, also known as “hydrofracking,” or “fracking,” is a controversial drilling method developed by Halliburton by which to extract natural gas from below the ground.

The Town of Spafford, uniquely responsible for its guardianship of protecting two watersheds that supply Syracuse and Onondaga County with drinking water, has dragged its feet in stepping up to specifically safeguard these essential and irreplaceable resources. The Town Board, proud of its new Zoning Ordinance, seems to hang its hat on the document, which they say, has sufficient teeth to stop any unwanted “heavy industrial activity.”

Well, maybe.

The Zoning Ordinance has a little caveat that could allow heavy industrial activity, contrary to its bucolic, down-home introductory verbiage. In Article I, 1-2, the intent of “such law is to promote the health, safety and general welfare of the community and to protect, preserve and enhance the scenic qualities and rural character of the Town of Spafford.”

Planned Development District (PDD), on the other hand, could allow in just about anything, as indicated in Article VI, 6-4. “In a Planned Development District (PDD), parcels and buildings may be used to accommodate a wide range of development and/or redevelopment regardless of the underlying zoning district(s), as authorized by the Town Board in the creation of a PDD…”

It appears as though the Town Board can rewrite the rules of any game it sees fit to change. Heavy industrial activity could include hydrofracking. Why has the Spafford Town Board been unanimously reluctant against banning hydrofracking, especially given its unique guardianship over two major watersheds?

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