An on-going renewable energy dispute among members of a small Southern Herkimer County community is headed to court. Five individuals from the Town of Litchfield just filed a lawsuit against their Town Board, alleging violations of Municipal laws concerning wind energy development.
The attorney representing the group, Meave Tooher, with Tooher & Barone, LLP, says the aim is to invalidate the recently passed Town law that bans community scale wind turbines from coming into the community. “The considerations that are set forth in the local law, we believe are without basis in fact, and are basically used as a pretext to prohibit these facilities without looking at the real facts and circumstances,” she said.
Jake Rasbach is one of the petitioners named in the lawsuit. He says at issue is: local officials prohibiting land owners from using their property as they see fit. “fifteen years ago my father and I had some people approach us on a project over windmills and everybody wanted it, but it just didn’t happen. And then, I think it was four years ago now, these people approached us again, Northwind, and all these new people have moved into town, you know, they own one acre of land, and want to tell everybody what to do with their land,” he said. Rasbach, who owns about 400 acres of land in the area, has essentially been prohibited from leasing his property to Northwind & Power, the energy company proposing to build 8 to 12 wind turbines on his land, after the Town Board voted in March of this year to ban the installation of any power generating project over 22 megawatts.
Tooher says the Northwind & Power project is a good example to use when describing how the ban law violates the rights of Litchfield residents in favor of the project. “This law without basis would basically prohibit consideration of that type of a project. So, what we would like to see is to have the law struck down. It was enacted in violations of the procedures that are necessary in enacting this type of law; they did not do an adequate review under the state environmental quality review act, they did not follow the open meetings law, the law it self was voted into law at a meeting that was done on only one days public notice–there’s requirements for the Town Board to comply with both the technical and the substantive requirements of enacting a local law, and they need to answer to all of the people of the town,” she said.
The dispute dating back to 2009, has since divided the community between those who see the Northwind & Power windmill project as beneficial, and those who view it as harmful. The lawsuit petitioners are: Shelby and Richard Barrett, John Chapman, Brian Landsphere and Jake Rasbach. The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of New York in Herkimer County. Calls to Town of Litchfield Board Supervisor, James Entwistle have not been returned at the time of this publication.