HAMMOND – Support for the revised Hammond wind law was overwhelming as the majority of speakers and written comments at Tuesday’s public hearing praised the efforts of the town council and wind committee, but it was a letter not read aloud causing the biggest stir at the hearing’s conclusion.
“I’m curious why he read every other letter and not mine,” said Michele W. McQueer, a member of the most recent wind committee and lease holder with Iberdrola Renewables, a wind company interested in a Hammond project. “I have a land-based protest petition containing 197 signatures, representing nearly 15,000 acres of Hammond property.”
Mrs. McQueer said her petition was protesting Local Law No. 1 of 2010, passed by the current town board on Jan. 11, 2010. That law, according to town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram, allows the town board to enforce land use regulations with a majority vote, rather than with a super-majority.
“They need a super-majority,” Mrs. McQueer said after Tuesday’s hearing.
Mr. Bertram said the letter was not read aloud because “it makes reference to possible litigation,” adding, “Michele McQueer was here tonight, she could have read it herself.”
Mrs. McQueer countered by saying she was not required to read her letter aloud.
Familiar faces and familiar material highlighted the hearing.
An unofficial count of 24 letters that Mr. Bertram did read saw 22 in favor of Local Law No. 2 of 2011, and only two – Ann Mitchell, a leaseholder and Crayton Buck, the chairman of the original wind committee and outspoken supporter of industrial wind projects – in opposition.
Of another 15 citizens who spoke aloud, 12 were supportive of the revamped law, while three were against it.
Mr. Bertram had opened the hearing by explaining that the new version of the law would amend and replace Local Law No. 1 of 2009 – passed in December of 2009 by a board containing two councilors no longer in office and then-Supervisor Janie G. Hollister.
Mrs. Hollister was the first to speak Tuesday and made it clear that she was against any changes being made to the law she first helped pass. She called the second wind committee biased and filled with “known anti-wind members.”
“Anti-wind and pro-CROH,” she said, referring to Concerned Residents of Hammond.
Mrs. Hollister told the crowd of about 100 in the Hammond Central School gymnasium that making such stringent changes to the wind law would ultimately mean the demise of the school. She said anyone in opposition to such a project had been “brainwashed.”
“I don’t care anymore whether or not the town receives any financial benefits,” she added. “Town officials will dictate whether the town does or the state does.”
CROH President Mary D. Hamilton was among many who praised the efforts of the town council and wind committee.
“Very few issues in our lifetime create discussion, debate, polarization and animosity as these issues have,” she said.
Allan P. Newell, a member of both the 2007 and 2010 wind committees, asked who it was that first decided that Hammond would pursue the wind industry.
“I’m still waiting for an answer,” Mr. Newell said, adding that he felt the original committee “lacked understanding” of the issues.
“I question the bias of that committee,” he said.
Notably lacking from Local Law No. 2 of 2011 was the Real Property Value Guarantee agreement devised by Richard K. Champney, wind committee member and Pulaski-based real estate attorney. Mr. Bertram said that language to that provision remained under scrutiny by Joseph W. Russell, town attorney, and would be added by an amendment to the law, if the law is passed. Such action would necessitate an additional public hearing, according to Mr. Bertram.
The next regular meeting of the Hammond Town Council will be held on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. in the town offices, 17 North Main St.