The Prattsburgh Town Board on Tuesday counter appealed an attempt by a wind farm developer to overturn an order signed by a state Supreme Court justice.
Ecogen officials did not give a reason for appealing the order, which they originally submitted.
The order – approved by Justice John Ark in February – included a road use agreement written by Ecogen. It also gave the developer 168 days to show “substantial construction.”
Councilman Chuck Shick said the town is challenging Ecogen’s appeal in an attempt to get the developer to negotiate. Ecogen has declined to meet with town officials, including Shick, who is the town’s appointed liaison with the town’s lawyer for the lawsuit.
“That seemed like the only way we have to get them to talk to us,” Shick said. “They sure haven’t responded to any of our other offers to sit down and talk.”
Shick said board members had discussed challenging the judge’s order but agreed to wait until he and Supervisor Lenny McConnell could meet with their attorney, Ed Hourihan.
After Ecogen’s unexpected action Monday, Hourihan advised a counter appeal, Shick said.
The appeals mark another chapter in a long dispute, which erupted about four years ago when residents in the nearby town of Cohocton complained the newly operational First Wind wind farm was noisy.
At the time, the Prattsburgh Town Board was in negotiations with Ecogen, and was divided on the developer’s proposed setbacks. The board considered a moratorium on wind farms to investigate the reports of noise, but withdrew its plans when the developer notified the town the temporary ban would be seen as a hostile move.
Ecogen held a public meeting to explain to residents what measures it would put in place to reduce any noise and maintained it was ready to begin construction.
However, other issues arose, including a dispute over a road use agreement and the incentives Ecogen was prepared to offer the town.
Opponents of the project were elected the following November, giving them a clear majority during the following term.
Within days of the election, Ecogen threatened to sue the town if the issues were not settled in December, before those favoring the project stepped down.
A settlement, including a road use agreement written by Ecogen, was approved by the outgoing board, but rescinded by the new board – thus parking a year-long lawsuit before Ark.
Ark’s April 2011 ruling included a call for both sides to agree on the road use agreement and gave Ecogen 168 days to show “substantial construction.” He signed the order last month. Ecogen has yet to begin construction and has refused to discuss the road use agreement.
Currently, Town Board is united in the need to discuss any settlement with Ecogen. McConnell maintains the terms of the order – in particular, the lack of incentives – are simply up for negotiations.
Others on the board say the project should meet setback requirements enacted under the town’s industrial wind laws.
At a special meeting two weeks ago, the board offered to meet with Ecogen in open session to discuss their differences. Instead, the wind developer appealed Ark’s order.
“We can’t get them to the table,” Shick said. “They’re ignoring us, like they always have. To me (the counter appeal) means ‘We’re not going to roll over. We won’t have you bullying us.’”
Ecogen has a standard policy of declining to discuss litigation in public.
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