Dan Ouimette’s decision to close his lands to sports access continues to draw harsh criticism by local officials and groups who say he vowed not to take this step.
Ouimette owns 9,000 acres of North Country land, part of which has been leased by would-be wind developer Seneca Mountain Wind.
The day after the vote last week against SMW’s wind project in Ferdinand, Ouimette closed off his lands to snowmobiling access for the remainder of the season.
Barb Nolan, chair of the Unified Tows and Gores Board of Governors, said in a statement in recent days, “We are aware that Mr. Ouimette has closed his land to snowmobilers, hikers and hunters, etc. My only comment is Mr. Ouimette sat in more than one UTG meeting and said that he would respect what the taxpayers in the UTG wanted in this vote.”
“Well, it sounds like he does not have respect for what the taxpayers wanted,” stated Nolan. “He is only concerned with what he wants and everyone is going to pay because he did not get his way. I think he needs to stop and think about who is picking up part of his taxes on his land since it is in Land Use … the taxpayers who he said he would respect. This is just my thoughts, not the entire board’s,” she stated.
Ouimette leased much of his land to the out-of-state wind developer, who had hoped to install 20 industrial-scale wind turbines on the ridgeline in Ferdinand, a part of the UTG.
The Board of the UTGs had publicly stated it would remain neutral on the issue and take direction from its property owners, who were sent ballots from the UTG board along with a proposal by Seneca Mountain Wind/Eolian Renewable Energy. SMW also sent a separate mailing informing property owners of a cash payment they would receive each year of almost $1,000 for hosting the wind project, after the UTG Board had asked that amount be struck from the formal proposal.
SMW/Eolian has promised they will not pursue a wind project in any community which is presented with a formal proposal and votes it down.
Ouimette said closing his land was a difficult decision for him, and he had not wished to do so, but he said he has been continually harassed by people opposed to the wind project, threatened, and felt he had no choice. He vowed that a wind farm one day will be raised on his land, and said the fight is not over.
Monday, the three groups who oppose the wind project, Brighton Ridge Protectors, Newark Neighbors United and Save Our Senecas, issued this statement, “Mr. Ouimette has explained that he closed his snowmobile trails because he has been ostracized, threatened, and suffered property damage. He may believe that the organizations that oppose his proposal to construct industrial wind turbines in Ferdinand have acted illegally. Three citizen groups have opposed his project. They are Newark Neighbors United, Save Our Senecas and Brighton Ridge Protectors. None of these groups or its members has ever acted illegally; they have never made threats nor have they damaged property. If Mr. Ouimette has been threatened or if his property has been vandalized, he should file a report with the police.”
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