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Wind turbine lawsuit is argued  

CAPE VINCENT – The Wind Power Ethics Group should know within two months if its lawsuit against the town Zoning Board of Appeals has been successful.

Both sides presented arguments Thursday in state Supreme Court in front of Judge Hugh A. Gilbert.

The citizens group is challenging the ZBA’s decision to classify commercial wind turbines as utilities under the town’s zoning regulations. The group asked the ZBA to issue an opinion on the matter, because the town never adopted a zoning law for turbines.

Scott F. Chatfield, attorney for the citizens group, said he argued that ZBA meeting minutes were so insufficient that the decision appears to be arbitrary to anyone looking for insight into it.

“When you read the minutes of the Zoning Board of Appeals, you find some curious things,” Mr. Chatfield said.

The meeting minutes for Jan. 29, when the public hearing considering the issue was held, for example, are contained entirely on one page and indicate there was “no public hearing scheduled.”

Town Attorney Mark G. Gebo said he contended that Mr. Chatfield’s arguments relating to meeting minutes should have been brought up when the appeal was filed in April, rather than in August.

He said the ZBA is required to interpret the town’s existing zoning law, and did so.

Mr. Chatfield said that not all material is required in the initial appeal, and that he first had to establish his clients’ standing.

Mr. Chatfield also said the ZBA decision appears arbitrary because there is no record as to why two members of the board, John Wiley and Paul Robbins, came to the decision that turbines should be considered utilities.

Written opinions from ZBA members R. Dennis Faulknham, Faye E. Ingerson and Chairman Edward P. Bender are part of the record. Mr. Bender voted to classify turbines as utilities, while Ms. Ingerson and Mr. Faulknham said turbines would not be allowed under the town’s existing law.

Mr. Chatfield also argued that the Jefferson County Planning Department should have been given an opportunity to make a recommendation on the interpretation of the law.

Mr. Gebo said there is no case law that indicates the board should have consulted with the county Planning Department.

The judge is expected to hand down a written decision within 60 days. If the ethics group wind the lawsuit, the matter will be brought back to the ZBA, Mr. Chatfield said.

By Kelly Vadney
Times Staff Writer

The Watertown Daily Times

19 August 2007


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