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Yates joins Somerset in officially opposing wind power project; Follows Somerset in bid to toughen town laws

YATES – The town officially went on record last week against a major wind power project, and opponents are getting ready to divvy up the developer’s money to fight the project.

Apex Clean Energy, based in Charlottesville, Va., is seeking to construct as many as 70 wind turbines in the Orleans County town, as well as in the neighboring Town of Somerset in Niagara County, both of which border Lake Ontario.

Somerset has been officially opposed for months and is working on a revised wind power law that would throw additional costs on Apex and its Lighthouse Wind project.

The Town Board in Yates also decided to create a task force to produce a tougher law of its own.

Yates had taken no position until Thursday, when new members of the board elected in November on an anti-wind platform produced a resolution of opposition that passed unanimously, with one member absent.

The resolution said the project is contrary to the town’s comprehensive plan and would be aesthetically negative, while the loss of farmland would hurt the town’s agricultural base, and the noise, vibration and “shadow flicker” of the spinning windmill blades could harm the health of residents.

The board also decided to join Somerset and the citizen group Save Ontario Shores in taking a chunk of the “intervenor funds” that Apex is required by state law to supply to opponents of the project.

Supervisor James J. Simon said $70,350 is available, based on a formula based on the size of the project.

Simon said the opponents will meet with administrative law judges from the state Department of Public Service at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Barker Fire Company hall to split up the cash for use in hiring lawyers and scientific experts.

The staff of the PSC last week issued a 38-page list of objections to the content of the company’s preliminary scoping statement.

However, the staff did not oppose the project on the merits and denied a Somerset motion to throw out the preliminary application completely.

Apex will be able to correct the errors and omissions that the PSC staff cited before submitting a final application for the project this summer.

A siting board comprising primarily state officials is to make the final decision on the project.

“We’re already working on our responses and are eager to present those publicly in early February,” said D. Taylor Quarles, Apex development manager.

As for Yates’ opposition, Quarles said, “Only when the application is submitted will stakeholders, such as the Town of Yates, have all the information required to make an informed decision.”

Somerset and Yates surveyed town residents and property owners last year and found 67 percent opposed to the project in Somerset and 65 percent opposed in Yates.