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Towns at fault, not wind-project foes  

There seems to be a minority of people who misunderstand the recent Article 78 decision against the towns of Stark and Warren.

No where in the ruling from Judge Greenwood will you find that the petitioners were responsible for nullifying the approval of the Jordanville Wind Project, nor did they violate the Open Meetings Law.

No where will you find that the petitioners have cost the town, county, landowners or fire districts any amount of money.

The responsibility for this falls squarely on the town boards for their failure to comply with state laws. The ruling states that the towns’ approval was “arbitrary, capricious and unsupported by substantial evidence” and they violated the Open Meetings Law multiple times.

The public’s trust was violated by the town boards. Regardless of your support for the Jordanville Wind Power Project, no citizen should accept this kind of behavior from our elected officials.

The Article 78 lawsuit was a last resort that no one wanted to pursue unless absolutely necessary. It was expensive, time-consuming and could have easily been avoided by an open, two-way dialogue between the towns and their citizens, and a willingness of the towns to compromise.

For me it took the filing of the Article 78 for the Town of Stark to even acknowledge that there were turbines in violation of the town’s own setback requirements, despite bringing this to their attention multiple times.

Other petitioners had a wide range of reasons for joining the suit, whether health concerns, property values, quality of life, water quality, or destruction of their view shed, all impacted by the construction of the turbines.

Petitioners included a cross section of residents from both towns including farmers, part-time residents, professionals, retirees, and parishioners and clergy from the Holy Trinity Monastery. All were willing to put their names on the line in order to see justice done, an especially difficult decision in such a small and close-knit community. I don’t think any of them regret their decision.

Arguments against the Article 78 seem to indicate almost an acceptance of illegal behavior by the town officials; to that I don’t think there’s an appropriate response. This lawsuit and ruling could have applied to any large project reviewed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, such as a jail or dump. Just because it was a wind power project doesn’t mean that the proposed project didn’t have serious environmental impacts. And just because a number of residents objected to the project as proposed and approved, it doesn’t mean that these same people are anti-wind.

At numerous times during the review of the project alternatives and modification were suggested to help make it a better fit for the entire community, not just the few that stand to financially benefit from the project.

The Article 78 decision is a precedent-setting case that will be referenced for years to come. It shows that citizens have the power to hold their local governments accountable and that there are consequences if government does not follow the law.

I believe that a compromise exists for the Jordanville Wind Project if only the town boards are willing to listen to their citizens’ concerns and follow the law.

STEVE REICHENBACH
Advocates for Stark

The Freeman’s Journal

12 February 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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