New zoning law in Skaneateles takes aim at hydrofracking, natural gas drilling

Town Board members pointed to the quality of Skaneateles Lake as a major concern in the debate over hydrofracking and natural gas drilling.

After two years of research and public input, Town Board members in Skaneateles pulled the trigger on a new zoning law prohibiting hydrofracking and other forms of natural gas drilling.

"It's a relief," said Claire Howard, who has lived in Skaneateles for decades. "I think they made the right decision."

It's a decision that comes after several moratoriums on hydrofracking, giving members the opportunity to learn more about the controversial form of natural gas drilling.

The biggest concern, board members said, was the impact hydrofracking could have on the environment, specifically Skaneateles Lake, a source of drinking water not only for the town, but the city of Syracuse, too.

"It's important and the city of Syracuse chimed in," said Councilor Steve McGlynn.

"For me, learning other information from other parts of the country as well as here and applying it," said Nancy Murray. "I really wanted to see us do this."

But town board members stress this is not an all-out ban on hydrofracking. Land owners can apply for a variance and have their case heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"I wouldn't call it a loophole," McGlynn said. "We still have the Constitution and we still have private property rights."

McGlynn said the language of the new law is crucial, and gives the town a leg to stand on should someone challenge its legality.

"For me, it's will it be taken to court on home rule law, the right of a town to zone, or taken to court on a private property taking claim," he said.

McGlynn won't be surprised if this law faces a challenge with, what would be, in his words, a classic zoning law battle.

But it's a battle, he said, board members are willing to fight.