The utterly predictable came to pass last night in Cape Vincent, where the town Zoning Board of Appeals denied the appeal of a Planning Board decision that an application for a wind farm could be considered under the town’s zoning law.
The appeal came from a group of people opposed to the wind farm who think the prospect of 60 to 90 gargantuan towers might have something of an impact on the quality of life ““ and the value of property ““ in a town that is doubly blessed by both Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River frontage. There is no empirical data that either confirms or denies their beliefs, except for this: a lot of people just don’t like the look of wind farms, with their 400-foot towers casting literal and figurative shadows across the land. And that, of course, does impact at very least the aesthetic value of a place.
The ZBA last night, as reported in the Watertown Daily Times, voted 3-2 to allow the Planning Board to consider a wind farm proposal under its special use provisions as utilities. The members who voted to allow this used “expert” determinations to decide the towers qualify as utilities. One member said that the federal government has determined wind farms are utilities; another said an engineer told him they were. The third member said his own reading of the town’s zoning law convinced him.
The attorney for the anti-wind farm group, Judy Drabicki, however, argued before the ZBA last week that the town’s law does not, in fact, allow wind farms to be considered utilities because the law is clear: utilities must be undertaken by either a municipal agency or a public utility ““ neither of which applies to any of the proposals for Cape Vincent.
Two ZBA members ““ R. Dennis Faulknham and Faye Ingerson ““ read the town code and agreed that the language is clear. They both said the town would be required to amend its zoning law before a wind farm could be considered for a special permit. They were right.
Cape Vincent public officials have by and large acted shamefully throughout this entire wind farm discussion. The Planning Board, for example, had to be shamed into acknowledging there were conflicts of interest within its ranks because members of the board have potential financial links to the projects. The town board has done everything in its power to stonewall opposition to the proposals. The Planning Board completely folded to the wind tower developer’s demand that they violate state law by keeping public documents private under the flimsy (and improper) excuse that it would endanger proprietary information. (The bullshit surrounding that claim is this obvious: if the information is proprietary on Jan. 13, it is still proprietary on Feb.1, when it WAS released to the public.) And now the ZBA has conveniently used a Sanskrit interpretation of the town zoning code to further push the project ahead.
The Wind Power Ethics group has not yet indicated whether it is going to sue the town over any of these specious acts. What they should do is sue the town over ALL the specious acts.
The north country is unfortunately a hotbed of out of control local governments. From Adams to Cape Vincent, from Massena to Lowville, local elected officials have some bizarre belief that they can do whatever the hell they want, the law be damned. From outrageous Planning Board decisions to egregious violations of the freedom of information act/open meetings law, municipal governments across the north country have become very, very good at thumbing their noses at the people they represent. Isn’t anyone besides me outraged at this? Isn’t anyone else inclined to stand up and say “Enough. Obey the law and serve our interests or we’ll put you the hell out of office!”?
We’ll see. A good place to start would be in Cape Vincent.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
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