YATES – By most estimations this year, opposition to a wind energy project in Yates and Somerset has far outpaced support.
It was visible from signs in yards, public outreach and meetings at town halls.
After being asserted in personal anecdotes and smaller calculations, a survey compiled by the town of Yates gives the largest impression of where residents stand on the proposed Lighthouse Wind installation.
And most are against it.
Sixty-five percent of the more than 1,100 respondents said they oppose the project based on their knowledge of it, with 30 percent in support and the rest with no opinion.
A similar ratio said they had concerns about the changes to landscape turbines would bring to the town, believed the project would decrease property values and expressed a desire for the town to attempt to negotiate a favorable electric rate for power spun out of the project.
Outgoing Yates Supervisor John Belson said among the last actions taken by the board for 2015 were sending resolutions informing the state of the survey results.
“The Town Board firmly believes that Yates residents should decide the zoning, planning, and development goals of the community,” members of the town board said in a news release. “Since the Lighthouse Wind LLC Project has the potential to drastically change the character of the community for more than a generation, the community’s voice on this dramatic change must be heard.”
While the survey arrived after the Orleans County Legislature formally opposed the project, Belson feels getting the survey done was a key step in moving the whole town forward.
“We did our due diligence and we respect the results,” Belson said. “We’ve heard the community and the board will work (in the future) to take care of the town of Yates.”
More than 2,500 surveys were delivered to property owners and registered voters in Yates, with the 46 percent replying – a far greater turnout than any other survey or election held since the wind project was made public.
More than 70 percent of respondents agreed with three statements that the study of health issues, wildlife issues and possible effects on operations at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station were important.
Apex Clean Energy, of whom Lighthouse Wind is a subsidiary, said those feelings mirror their own. They intend to pursue studies as part of their work before a siting board reviews a final project.
“We also recognize the importance of these efforts, and we are confident that the studies required through the Article 10 process will accurately analyze and quantify these items,” Apex said in a news release. “It is vital in any wind project to correctly site the turbines to eliminate or mitigate health risks and environmental impact.”
On the issue of tax incentives to the project, Yates residents said they opposed a PILOT being granted via the county’s economic development agency by a 57 to 27 percent margin, with 16 percent having no opinion. A majority said they would like to see at least half of the town’s $852,205 tax levy be removed by income from the project.
Orleans EDA Vice President Gabrielle Barone said the agency has a broad-based policy only to entertain a PILOT if the impacted municipalities desired one to be given to a new or expanding business. The EDA has not been approached about any incentives, she said, for the Lighthouse Wind project.
“(The survey) may very well influence it,” Barone said.
The narrowest vote came on a belief over the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan. Forty-five percent said they did not see it as an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to 31 percent who did, and 24 percent with no opinion.
The 10-question survey was prepared by a town-led committee that included input from Save Ontario Shores, a community group opposed to the project, and Lighthouse Wind.
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