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Yates approves met tower for wind project data

LYNDONVILLE – The idea of hosting a wind energy system is one that Donna Bane did not take lightly.

“I did a lot of research, I talked with people in the Southern Tier and I did a lot of soul searching,” Bane said Thursday.

She weighed the positives and negatives with her family, who will one day inherit the Marshall Road farmland that has been in the Bane Family for more than a century.

Their family meeting, the one where Bane decided to move forward with her involvement in the proposed Lighthouse Wind project, was mirrored Thursday by the Yates Town Council, which agreed by a three-to-one vote to approve an application for a 60-meter meteorological tower on Bane’s land.

The tower is an allowed use in the town’s zoning code, said Supervisor John Belson, who voted for the application’s approval after more than a dozen residents and parties to the project voiced their opinions on the met tower, the Lighthouse Wind project and wind energy as a whole.

“It’s a permitted use, the county planning board put stipulations on it and we adhered to them,” Belson said. “This is apart from the wind project, it’s two different things.”

According to Taylor Quarles, the development manager for Apex Clean Energy, a building permit for the meteorological tower will be sought once a decommissioning bond is in hand.

A company that specializes in met towers has been contracted for the project, which would be second used to aid the design of the project and track wind capacity, environmental conditions and bat populations.

“We’re eager to get it in place,” said Quarles, who spoke on behalf of the project Thursday.

A chorus of opposition within the more than 60 people who packed into the Yates Town Hall argued that waiting, if not denying, the application would be the best way to get answers. The tower will likely be in the ground before a preliminary scoping statement is completed and made public.

Jim Simon has been unsettled by the gap between private and public knowledge about the project’s progress. He argued tying the PSS to the met tower would provide more information.

“I don’t doubt (Apex’s) intentions,” Simon said. “But if you postpone (the met tower approval) until the PSS, it makes them show their hand.”

The comments against the project varied. Richard Pucher asked the town to hold off and appoint a citizen’s advisory council for wind energy. Mike Basil argued that a vote needed to wait until environmental studies are completed. Valerie Pratt told councilmen to consider the relative short review’s ability to adequately track bird migrations.

Bane spoke out for the tower’s approval.

“We won’t get a lot of answers (on environmental questions) without it,” Bane said.

For her own decision to host the tower and sign a land lease for a turbine, Bane said she had to look to the future. She hopes taxes are reduced across the town as result of the project, that jobs follow and Main Street can regain momentum.

The alternative is a future she fears.

“It will be a great boost to our community,” Bane said. “If we don’t do something, it’s going to become a ghost town. This will save it for our children.”