More than 50 residents attended the Town of Enfield public hearing Wednesday to hear discussion regarding two laws that town board members allege were passed illegally late in 2007.
At the town board meeting following the hearing, the board voted 4-1 to repeal both laws – an ethics law and the Utility Scale Wind Energy Conversion Systems Local Law – in one resolution. Councilman Rob Harvey voted against the resolution.
Town attorney Guy Krogh said it was his legal opinion that the laws were passed illegally because substantial changes were made to each law between public hearings and the finalization of the laws. He said he checked his opinion with the state attorney general’s office, which agreed that the changes in the laws were substantial enough that they might not hold up in court.
De Murphy, a member of the town ethics committee that advised the previous town board in drafting the ethics law, asked the town board “not to throw the baby out with the bathwater” by repealing the law entirely. Instead, she urged the town board to amend the law as desired, which she said is typical with new town boards.
Town Supervisor Frank Podufalski said the town needed to redraft the law in order to give it weight in court.
“Nobody said we don’t want an ethics law,” he said, adding that he wanted to send both laws back to the planning board and ethics committee to make sure “all the t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted.”
Podufalski said he can’t comment on whether there will be changes to the previous ethics law, but did say the town will pass an ethics law. Podufalski did not indicate what the timeline for drafting that law will be.
Planning board member Deborah Teeter said she “applauded” the town board’s move to repeal the law and come back with another law.
The law was repealed due to changes made that Krogh considers substantial, but at the outset of the meeting there was some confusion as to who called what meetings and whether town board members had the authority to call special town board meetings.
Lori Mithen, acting counsel for the New York State Association of Towns, said if two or more town board members submit a written request to the supervisor for a special meeting, the supervisor is obligated to call a special meeting within 10 days of the request.
Mithen said that special meetings can also be called through action of the town board at a regularly scheduled meeting, through a majority vote.
The wind law was crafted mostly through special board meetings. The public hearing for that law – which is required whenever a town board crafts, amends or repeals a law – was scheduled during a special meeting in December called by former board members Sandy Small and Peggy Hubbell.
During the course of Wednesday’s public hearing, a resident brought to light a possible conflict of interest between Krogh, the town board and wind farm developer John Rancich. Krogh’s firm represents Rancich, though Rancich denies having Krogh ever represent him.
Calls from The Journal to the New York State Bar Association were not returned.
The Enfield wind law that was repealed Wednesday effectively squashed Rancich’s wind farm proposal with a provision that required the turbines to be 1,250 feet from surrounding property lines.
With the law off the books, the wind farm now has new life.
Podufalski said the town board will likely pursue a new wind law, but he did not comment on possible set-back provisions.
By Tim Ashmore
14 March 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding