A half-dozen landowners near the site of the proposed Monticello Hills wind farm in Richfield filed a lawsuit Friday against the town planning board and three of its members, alleging that the approval of the project violated their rights to due process and fair compensation.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the landowners by Springfield lawyer Douglas Zamelis, notes that the Planning Board’s decisions to approve the project in 2011 and again in 2013 were ultimately rescinded by State Supreme Court Judge Donald Cerio
Names as defendants in the case were the board’s chairman, Donald Urtz, and members Cynthia Andela and R. Joseph Woodrow.
“Planning board and other board members usually enjoy immunity from personal and individual liability, but not if their actions under cover of law violate someone’s constitutional rights,” said Zamelis.
The landowners bringing the action were Michael J. Reid, Kelly A. Auger, Georg-ann Gigliotti, Daniel E. Mezik, William J. Zaleski and Patricia L. Zaleski. They asserted in the civil complaint that their property rights were taken without due process or compensation when the board approved wind turbines so tall that it precluded the plaintiffs from developing their own property.
Reid said in a statement that the planning board members showed “absolutely no regard for us or our rights when they were evaluating the wind farm proposal.” He maintained his property would be unsafe for development if the turbines were to be placed nearby.
Urtz, who has said the wind farm would have a positive economic impact on Richfield, was not immediately available for comment.
The wind farm would consist of six turbines, each rising 492 feet from the ground, that would bracket U.S. Route 20 just west of the village of Richfield Springs. Advanced by a company called Ridgeline Energy, the project has been a divisive topic in the town for the past three years and has been the subject of several lawsuits.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages as well as the costs of the litigation and attorney’s fees.
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