After months of community debate over a proposed law to regulate commercial windmills, the Town Board on Thursday appointed a seven-member committee to study how far wind turbines should be set back from adjoining properties.
The new committee is made up of town Councilman Roy Bilby and Planning Board member Robert Reed, plus citizen members Marty Thompson, Dr. William Lancaster, Bruce Loveys, Joan Sondergaard and John Pendergrass.
Councilman John Barlow, who becomes town supervisor on Tuesday, named Thompson to chair the committee.
The Town Board unanimously appointed the advisory committee after a suggestion by Councilman Larry Zaba to include industrial windpower foe Robert Nied found no support.
Nied, co-chairman of Schoharie Valley Watch, a citizens group opposed to siting large-scale wind farms in the region, won about 15 percent of the vote as a write-in independent candidate for supervisor in the November elections.
Outgoing Supervisor Betsy Bernocco, a Democrat, lost the three-way race to Barlow, a Republican.
Bernocco stressed that the committee’s findings, due on March 13, “is not something the board has to live by” in drafting a law to regulate the siting of any wind projects.
“It’s not binding to the board, whatever is decided by that committee,” Bernocco said.
The board decided to form the advisory committee after failing to reach a consensus on regulations Dec. 18 at the last of several special meetings on elements of the proposed law.
Zaba suggested the committee to help the board evaluate potential setback requirements.
Barlow recommended the setback committee members from among about 13 people who had expressed interest, he said.
None of the appointed members is active with Schoharie Valley Watch, according to Nied.
“We offered to supply a member,” Nied said. “We have done so much research, we thought it would be helpful.”
Nied and Schoharie Valley Watch Co-chairman Don Airey said the group would provide information it has gathered to the committee.
No public comment was allowed during Thursday’s year-end board meeting, although several of about 20 people attending asked to speak.
The meeting closed a chapter in Bernocco’s political career.
She made no departing comments Thursday, but she made it clear last Friday during her final meeting as a member of the county Board of Supervisors that she didn’t expect to fade from the community scene.
“The last time I left, I said I would be back, and I was for two years,” Bernocco said in a tearful goodbye to the Board of Supervisors.
A registered nurse specializing in care of the elderly and terminally ill, Bernocco said she expects to continue working with the county’s task force seeking alternatives for long-term health care.
She was also appointed by the Town Board last month to the town Planning Board, effective Tuesday. She will fill the seat vacated when Nied quit in protest last July.
Referring to Barlow, a burly outdoorsman who runs a Warnerville sporting goods shop, Bernocco told supervisors Friday, “he is as passionate [about issues] as I am … he is my bear.”
As Thursday’s town meeting ended, Barlow thanked Bernocco “for all your time and effort.”
Bernocco, 58, was also town supervisor from 1992 to 1999, as well as Richmondville village mayor from 1987 to 1991.
By R.J. Kelly
28 December 2007
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