Rochester, NY – The long-awaited court hearing last week on a proposed Prattsburgh wind farm project was thorough and extensive, according to town representatives.
“It was scheduled for one day, with maybe more,” Town Supervisor Al Wordingham said. “It took five.”
The purpose of the Jan. 27 hearing – which included sworn testimony from key town and wind farm officials – was to resolve the years-long dispute between Prattsburgh residents and wind farm developer Ecogen.
Matters reached a head in January 2010, when a new town board rescinded a month-old agreement between Ecogen and the previous town board. Ecogen then took Prattsburgh to court, after months of threatening the town with lawsuits if an agreement was not reached.
“I don’t think these guys wanted to hear ‘If you don’t do this we will sue you,” Prattsburgh’s attorney Ed Hourihan said. the bottom of this, it’s a local town’s right to self-government and the right to regulate their land resources.”
Ecogen has declined throughout the lawsuit to comment on litigation. But the developer’s stance during public meetings has been it was ready to begin construction immediately and had invested in millions of dollars in equipment and studies.
The developer maintains new concerns raised in 2009 about harmful noise at a wind farm in neighboring Cohocton were only designed to scuttle the project.
But Ecogen representatives failed during the hearing to prove they have been ready to begin construction for the past two year, Hourihan said.
Hourihan said Ecogen reps also contradicted each other, with one man saying the firm did not need to construct a second wind farm in the town of Italy, while a second man said the Italy project was critical to the Prattsburgh project.
The developer proposes to put up 16 turbines in Prattsburgh and 18 turbines in Italy, in Yates County. For years, Italy residents have resisted the proposal, which include building an essential substation there.
The Ecogen representatives, John Calloway and Thomas Hagner, made it clear the wishes of residents – who elected the new town board by a 2-to-1 margin – were unimportant, Hourihan said.
“The positions taken by Ecogen are ever changing,” Hourihan said. “They are deceptive, untruthful and there an air of arrogance and condescension that permeates everything they do.”
Calloway reportedly spoke several times with town Supervisor Al Wordingham last fall in what appeared to be in an effort to compromise. Calloway abruptly broke off discussions in December, Wordingham said.
A key issue for both sides is the road use agreement, which the former town board balked at until Ecogen threatened to sue. When two pro-wind board members were soundly defeated in November, the board swiftly passed a 3-2 agreement in December allowing Ecogen to determine road uses and other matters involved in the project.
The newly elected board, including Wordingham, swiftly rescinded the agreement 4-1, saying it violated home rule laws. Councilwoman Stacey Bottoni voted against the rescinding the agreement and has been a staunch, vocal supporter of the wind farm developer.
Wordingham said state Supreme Court Justice John Ark had clearly educated himself on the topic.
“His questions were right on target,” Wordingham said. “He was well in-tune with what we were saying. He was really asking questions.”
Italy town representatives will be in Ark’s court next week, Wordingham said.
“And then we’ll just have to see,” he said.
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