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Prattsburgh: Board unites on wind farm

Prattsburgh, NY – Wind farm developer Ecogen may be facing something new in its long history of threatened, and real, lawsuits against the town of Prattsburgh – a united Town Board.

Board members were in unanimous agreement the developer’s current proposal needs re-working when they met Monday night

“I’m not in favor of this,” town Supervisor Lenny McConnell said. “A lot more is needed.”

McConnell received support from all councilmen, including Councilman Chuck Shick, the board’s liaison for the current legal dispute, which was ruled on early last year by state Supreme Court Justice John Ark.

Shick’s objections to Ecogen’s proposal were more pointed.

“This is a slap in the face,” he told the board. “They don’t want to discuss anything.”

Ecogen’s proposal is one of two orders awaiting Ark’s signature. The other proposed order was submitted by the town shortly after Ark’s February 2011 ruling.

Ecogen’s proposed order simply turns the clock back to December 2009, when a former board approved a resolution essentially giving the developer the ability to do what it wanted. The resolution provided no incentives to the town and set out a road use agreement with changes made by Ecogen.

The incoming board rescinded the 2009 agreement and the parties took their case to court. Ark ruled Prattsburgh and Ecogen should come together on a road use agreement and gave the developer about six months to establish vested rights to the project.

Town officials promptly signed the road use agreement, tailored by Ecogen, and submitted its proposed order.

The only difference between December 2009 and now is Ecogen wants a different road use agreement, Shick said.

Shick told the board Ecogen refused to meet with town representatives, adding “They said we should just sign the settlement.”

McConnell said Ecogen’s stand simply opens the door for more negotiations, which includes incentives similar to the ones it offered the neighboring Yates County town of Italy for a related wind project.

Board members said any negotiations also should fill the gaps they see in the proposed order including the number of turbines in the project, “health and safety” setbacks set out in the town’s recent wind utility law, and the size and model of the turbines.

Shick said he is mystified by Ecogen’s stand on the road use agreement and suggested the town leave it up to Ark to decide which order to sign – something the board said it will consider if negotiations fall through.

McConnell and Councilwoman Angela Einwachter will meet with Steuben County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Jamie Johnson to learn what options the town has regarding the tax-incentive payments Ecogen must make to the town. The status of the environmental impact statement also is not known.

Johnson said the environment statement can be changed only if Ecogen makes substantial changes to the project, including adding or reducing the number of turbines. However, the tax-incentives can be negotiated between the recipients, which include the town, school districts and county.

The Prattsburgh town board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the municipal hall, to further discuss their options with Ed Hourihan, the attorney representing the town in the Ecogen lawsuit.