Poland Village Council has dropped the idea of looking at a gas drilling lease in Poland Woods. This came Tuesday, March 20 after a legal opinion was read into the minutes.
"When someone gives land, they can restrict its use," said solicitor attorney Anthony D'Apolito. "Grace Butler said [Poland Woods] can only be used for park purposes. Drilling is a commercial purpose. Anything that varies from a park purpose cannot be done."
The legal opinion came in the form of a letter from Alan Wenger of Harrington, Hoppe, and Mitchell, Ltd., who was asked to look into the legalities of the issue. The last paragraph of the letter, dated March 12, gave a summary of the opinion.
"In summary, it is our opinion that the Village of Poland is prevented from using property subject to the deed restriction for anything other than park purposes only. This would prevent the Village from allowing drilling to occur on the property. Any violation would likely be enforced by an injunction, and it does not appear that the property would be forfeited if a violation occurred. If drilling is allowed and results in damages to surrounding properties, the Village and its authorities may be subject to potential liability."
Councilman attorney Robert Limmer said," We've got a clear opinion from the attorney we hired. Any entity can enter into a lease, but the law could prevent that power."
In attendance at the meeting was Dorothy Butler-Facciobene, great grand-daughter to Grace Butler. She said she represented the entire Butler family.
"My entire family is opposed," she said, after which she got a huge round of applause.
After a unanimous vote was taken to enter the legal opinion into the minutes, Council moved on to discuss whether or not to band the ad-hoc committee that was being formed to study fracking and the drilling leases. After several minutes of comments, the decision was made to keep the committee as the Village does own other properties that could be involved in leasing.
On another matter, Clerk-treasurer Linda Srnec told Council they will need to move swiftly regarding a 2 mill general expense levy that is up renewal this year. She said the Village's budget looks good for 2012, but next year could be facing deficit spending. She said Council needs to talk about what they want to do. They could place the present levy on as a renewal, or could do a replacement. They could also consider a renewal and a new levy that would be separate.
"There needs to be a written format on the table by May 1," she said.
She would then have to get the numbers certified by the auditor and present it to council, who would have to have three readings before it could be approved for this November's election.