The Cherry Valley Town Board hasn’t rejected a petition signed by more than 160 residents who say that parts of a proposed town wind ordinance would hinder construction of a wind-turbine project.
Petitioners consulted the New York Civil Liberties Union after questions about its admissibility were raised.
Town Supervisor Tom Garretson said Tuesday that the petition has been received, along with many letters from town residents who expressed views on the proposed law.
Two months ago at a public hearing on the ordinance, Garretson had invited written comment on it, asking people to submit personal letters but not form letters or petitions.
Nonetheless, a petition that criticized some clauses in this ordinance as too restrictive was submitted to the town board in October by Barbara Perry, of Cherry Valley.
“I turned in the petition because I thought it was my constitutional right to do so,” said Perry, a landowner who supports a proposal by Reunion Power to erect 24 wind turbines in the town.
After Garretson said the petition would not be received, Perry contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The Albany-based legal group wrote to Garretson on Nov. 16, advising him “that the board can not legally determine the form of speech with which the residents address their town board. We also point out that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically gives the people the right to Âpetition the government for a redress of grievances.”’
On Tuesday, Melanie Trimble, executive director of the Albany chapter of the NYCLU, said a committee of lawyers was scheduled to review the Cherry Valley situation Dec. 8.
She said that not accepting a petition while accepting letters is not ethical, but she was unsure what the NYCLU could do about it.
Garretson, who is in his first year in office, said he was unaware that it was improper to ask people to address the board in personal letters rather than by petition.
“I probably should have worded that differently, but I am learning as I go along,” he said.
He noted that the petition never was discarded and said he would contact the NYCLU to resolve the matter.
Perry, who has agreed to have turbines set on her property, said that minutes from a town board meeting state the petition was not accepted, and she hoped it would be considered as the board decides whether to adopt or amend the proposed ordinance.
Garretson said the ordinance will be put to a vote before the end of the year.
Reunion Power has scheduled an open house about the project from 5 to 8
By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau