Third party candidates seek upset in Fenner town election

Fenner Neighbor Party candidates, form left, Carl Snow, Cindy Gavula and Phil Rose.

Fenner Neighbor Party candidates, form left, Carl Snow, Cindy Gavula and Phil Rose. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— The three of them found themselves brought together nearly one year ago in their efforts to ban the controversial practice of drilling for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing in Fenner.

Fenner currently has no legislation on the books specifically addressing natural gas drilling. The town board has taken the position that the current statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, as well as existing town zoning laws, are sufficient to regulate the issue while also allowing the municipality room to address the issue in the future as necessary.

Snow, Gavula and Rose, along with numerous other town residents have been pushing the board for the past nine months to officially approve a moratorium on gas drilling in Fenner and ultimately pass a local law banning the practice outright. At the June 12 Fenner Town Board meeting, about 50 people presented a petition containing approximately 650 signatures of Fenner residents calling for the board to amend the town zoning laws to prevent and prohibit gas exploration or extraction in the town. They have also requested that town attorney Jim Stokes provide them, in writing, an explanation of the town’s policy concerning gas drilling and how current zoning laws will prevent such drilling as the town board maintains. As of the board’s August meeting, that request had not been fulfilled.

“This is a critical issue of home rule,” said Rose. “Now the courts support that towns can ban drilling. We’ve been appealing to the town board for a year to ban it. They say we’re fine; we say we need a stronger policy in place that will protect us.”

Rose admits that the issue of gas drilling is not only about the town’s environmental health and beauty, but that it is also a personal one for him — his home on Mutton Hill Road is across the street from 600 acres of land already leased to gas drilling companies. “This is what I will have to see and smell every day” if drilling comes to Fenner, he said.

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