Mollica said his attorney was disappointed by his decision, saying he felt confident they could prove their case. "But after four years, I've been restricted from working in my field," he said. "I haven't been able to pursue that because I have to be around for meetings in addition to the long hours of research to prepare for them. I feel confident that the issues I've raised are legitimate. They are real and are not just my issues. I just want to get back to a normal life. I've dedicated four years trying to convince people about this and I have convinced many people."
PRINCETON – After spending the last four years battling a proposal by the Princeton Municipal Light Department to put up two 230-foot wind towers off Westminster Road, John Mollica has asked his attorney to dismiss all three of the pending lawsuits.
Mollica has filed four lawsuits.
The first regarding the Princeton planning board’s decision not to hold a site review for the wind data towers was dropped after a site review was finally held.
The second lawsuit was filed against the Princeton Zoning Board of Appeals for disregarding the height restrictions in the bylaw regarding the wind test towers and the board’s classification of the data towers as “public buildings.” In September 2005, the court ruled in favor of Mollica and co-litigant John Bomba, deciding that Mollica had legal standing and that the towers violated the zoning bylaws. That case remains in court because the ZBA appealed the judge’s decision, said Mollica.
The third lawsuit concerned the results of the Princeton Panning Board’s site review for the proposed wind farm. The court reached a partial decision in the case, granting Mollica legal standing and PMLD municipal use status for the site. The court remanded the decision back to the planning board, because the judge said the board didn’t realize they could have denied the proposal. The planning board was scheduled to discuss the matter at their meeting last night.
The fourth lawsuit is also against the planning board regarding the site plan review. That case is also pending.
Mollica said he’d recently reassessed his involvement with the wind farm project and decided it’s unlikely that the lawsuits would address his primary concern – that of public safety. Mollica has continually warned of the dangers of sheets of ice being flung from windmill blades, noting the proximity of the proposed windmills to nearby hiking trails and the open access to the site itself.
“I just don’t see the legal issues addressing public safety despite everything I do to raise awareness. The lawsuits don’t really protect the public, regarding Westminster Road and the state park,” he said.
Two or three years ago the information the public had about windmills focused mostly on other parts of the country where icing isn’t an issue, said Mollica. “Now it’s more common, manufacturers are making comments about safety and setbacks and making information available.
“I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to get the information out. If I thought it would have an effect I’d continue, but I don’t see the lawsuits addressing public safety,” he said.
Mollica said he felt the courts were looking at the issue from the perspective of how it affected him personally rather than the greater effect on the general public. “I’m looking at it from the standpoint of the safety of the general public,” he said.
On a personal level, Mollica said he was concerned about the noise level and visual impact. “Those matter to me but I wouldn’t have pursued it for this long if it was just that,” he said.
Mollica said his attorney was disappointed by his decision, saying he felt confident they could prove their case.
“But after four years, I’ve been restricted from working in my field,” he said. “I haven’t been able to pursue that because I have to be around for meetings in addition to the long hours of research to prepare for them. I feel confident that the issues I’ve raised are legitimate. They are real and are not just my issues. I just want to get back to a normal life. I’ve dedicated four years trying to convince people about this and I have convinced many people.”
He noted increasing public awareness, which includes that from groups like the Sierra Club “who are concerned about setting a state-wide precedent because of the inconsistencies with the use of state-owned property,” said Mollica.
“I’ve looked at what the wind industry was saying about setbacks and this is a site that’s at the far end of the spectrum in terms of safety issues,” he said. “We have a history of accidents and structural failures at the site along with ice damage, that led me to focus on safety issues.
“I don’t know what the future will bring and don’t know what other people will do. The law is a funny thing. There’s not much you can do about some things; you have to wait until something happens. You can’t file speculative lawsuits. But the likelihood of something happening up there is real. Icing or structural failure during a big storm is a risk. But I guess Princeton is willing to take the risk.”
Mollica noted that he’s been reviewing the wind farm project for four years. He said public opinion did not play into his decision to drop the lawsuits.
He said he based his decisions on solid empirical evidence and documentation at the wind farm site, and through research of the wind industry studies, data and recommendations relating to turbine icing and structural failure (he’s compiled this into a report at www.princetonwindfarm. com).
“Four years is a long time to dedicate to something. I’m happy with what I did and I’d do it again because I think it was the right thing to do. But now I’ll get some portion of my life back to normal. But overall it was extremely educational for me.”
Mollica said his decision to drop the lawsuits is not an indication that he now supports the site of the Princeton wind farm project. “I do not,” he said.
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