ALBION – A renewed effort by residents opposed to a wind energy project in Yates met with a similar response at the Orleans County Legislature Monday.
Legislature Chairman David Callard said his board will not take a declarative position on the proposed Lighthouse Wind project without “definitive” indications of where the town and its people stand.
Not when the county is itself fighting against the state on home rule issues intertwined with the wind project and the Article X process that would have a say in where any wind turbines could be located.
“We will fight for all our residents on home rule … but to ask us now to do what we’re fighting against the state on is wrong and hypocritical,” Callard said. “It has to be done by the people of Yates … we can’t force our will by resolution against them.”
A group of Yates residents, including members of Save Ontario Shores, asked legislators to do what they feel the town has failed to – be their protectors against an out-of-state developer and an Albany-centered process.
Glen Maid of Yates said he understood a reluctance to get ahead of the town, but he urged the Legislature to direct its specific views on the project to Albany as residents on both sides of debate have through the state’s Public Service Commission.
“This could be built and operational before the town acts, with (Apex) dictating where its industrial development and industrial zones will be,” Maid said.
Ken Schaal of Shelby said those protections were in place after a 2007 initiative by his town, Yates and Ridgeway to develop wind energy zoning regulations after a project was broached. The enactment of Article X, which puts approval of projects like commercial wind energy installations under the purview of a state-appointed siting board instead of local decision-makers, wiped out that progress.
“They spent a lot of effort … the towns created zoning laws to control siting, but Article X took it away … the towns tried to protect people and the state took that ability away from us,” Schaal said. “Your fight is with Albany, the problem is home rule.”
Cynthia Hellert of Yates argued it would not be extraordinary for the county to act with the town, as they’ve done on issues ranging from the SAFE Act to e-waste. She asked the county to declare a moratorium on wind energy development.
“I’m here again to plead once again for you to oppose, don’t wait for a complacent town board,” Hellert said. “It’s such a travesty, please take a stand for your residents. If the Yates Town Board is unwilling or unable, do it for our protection.”
Hellert worries the lack of a county position would be tantamount to letting the project pass by without resistence from easily-enacted road blocks.
“If we stand on the fence, then we’re opening the door (for the project),” Hellert said. “We’re constantly writing the Public Service Commission, but if they feel they’re invited (Apex) will come right in.”
The Niagara County Legislature has passed a resolution of opposition to the project, which would be largely built in the town of Somerset to the west of Yates.
Callard indicated the county would consider a resolution of support or opposition if a clear message is delivered by residents, likely in terms of a community survey being slowly developed by representatives of the town council, SOS and Apex Clean Energy.
“The (town) elections may make the final determination, but I’m not convinced of the support either way,” Callard said. “It has to be definitive.”
In the meantime, Callard said the county will step up its efforts to fight Article X at the state level.