HARTSVILLE – The Hartsville Town Board declined to provide variances to NextEra Energy Resources Wednesday’s and it passed a resolution stating the town is “not a willing host” for the Eight Point Wind Project.
Residents – both pro- and anti-wind development – filled the Hartsville Town Garage for the second straight monthly board meeting. Many pro-wind residents sported green hats with “Hartsville Wind” on them and green T-shirts that read “WIND TODAY.”
Town Councilman Mike Muhleisen, who was appointed deputy supervisor earlier in the meeting, led the proceedings and read the board’s response to NextEra Energy Resources’ requests for variances to Hartsville’s wind law.
NextEra had asked the board to remove or waive the 450-foot height restriction as put forth in the wind law, raising that limit to 590 feet; a 1,500-foot setback to all residences; a setback to non-participating property lines of 1.1 times the tip height of a particular turbine; and a revision of sound requirements.
Ryan Pumford, project director at NextEra Energy Resources, was joined by Mike Lopushinsky, NextEra environmental specialist and Coke Coakley, NextEra manager of environmental services at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The Hartsville Town Board will not make any capricious or arbitrary statements regarding variances for Local Law No. 2 of 2009,” Muhleisen read. “The application procedure set forth in Local Law No. 2 of 2009 is very specific. The process has not been completed by NextEra Wind and therefore the Hartsville Town Board cannot provide a variance review.”
In addition, the statement noted that any amendment to the wind law would require legal counsel, a written proposal by the board, a public hearing and filing with the state among other steps.
“The Town Board unanimously agrees that no amendments to Local Law No. 2 of 2009 will be made,” Muhleisen said to a mix of cheers and boos.
From there, Town Councilman David McEvoy presented a resolution that would make Hartsville “not a willing host” to the Eight Point Wind Project “or any other wind energy facility project that is not in full compliance with the Town of Hartsville’s Local Law No. 2 of 2009.”
The board then unanimously approved the measure, 4-0.
Muhleisen then made a motion to adjourn the meeting, to the ire of several in the audience.
“As noted at the beginning, because of the organizational changes we asked that those comments be added to the board in writing,” Muhleisen said before the motion was approved, reiterating a similar statement he made at the start of the meeting.
The motion didn’t stop pro-wind officials from speaking their minds even as town officials left the garage. Amelia “Mead” Amidon read a prepared statement equating the Hartsville Town Board to a “dictatorship.”
“In numerous meetings you as a board have stated that the wind law was written to protect the landowners,” Amidon’s statement read. “It appears to me that the landowners you are protecting are yourselves. Could this be because you as dictators want to keep the people in bondage?”
In addition, Amidon argued that the board turns a “deaf ear” to what the majority of Hartsville residents want.
“Besides not listening to the residents, you as a board refuse to acknowledge that Hartsville could greatly profit from the money paid to the town from (NextEra),” Amidon’s statement read. “When you refuse to change the local wind energy laws, you as a board are telling the residents of Hartsville that you don’t want to the roads improved, you want the town not to purchase brand new equipment but use equipment that is old and constantly needs repairing (costing lots of money), and that you want the town to stay in debt.”
Meanwhile, a group called Citizens for Wind Power submitted a letter with petitions advocating that the town revise its wind law to allow wind turbines and that the Town Board should “cease and desist” spending taxpayer money on legal fees tied to “stopping the placement of turbines in Hartsville.”
The letter claims that the petition was signed by 261 taxpayers, “more than the total number of taxpayers voting in the last election.”
Outside the garage, Pumford admitted he was surprised at the board’s actions.
“I’ve never seen a public meeting go quite like this,” Pumford said. “There’s obviously a lot of turmoil, a lot of things caught a lot of people by surprise it seems like. The decision that the Town Board made and how they made it I think is a big disservice to the whole Town of Hartsville.
“The decision seemed to be a pretty hasty one to just shut down the possibility of having responsible wind development in the area.”
However, he wouldn’t close the door on the future of wind energy in Hartsville but admitted time is short for councilmen to reverse course and rejoin the Eight Point Wind Project which also includes Canisteo, Greenwood, Hornellsville, Jasper, Troupsburg and West Union. He thanked the pro-wind audience in attendance.
“We’re at a crossroads where we need to start actually getting into the field, conducting studies on areas where we think we’re going to plan turbines so there’s a very limited time frame for Hartsville to decide that they want to participate so that we can do those studies in time,” Pumford said.
Former Hartsville Town Supervisor Mike Palmer, who sported the green pro-wind hat and shirt at Wednesday’s meeting, told The Evening Tribune that he believes the current wind law is outdated.
“What these people are bringing to light is the fact that these towers are now built bigger from the wind law that they wrote in 2009,” Palmer said. “It’s seven years and they say we spent a lot of time on this wind law. Well, it’s (a) seven years ago wind law. A lot of technology changes … You don’t have the cell phone you had seven years ago.”
Palmer also took issue with how the meeting ended.
“It’s a disgusting fact to sit up there and have to say no to the people that voted for me,” Palmer said. “For them to shut the meeting down and not discuss it is unfathomable to me. It is total ridiculousness … None of them wanted to talk to the wind company tonight? That’s unfortunate. None of them wanted to actually talk to the people that all came here tonight and gathered, to hear from them? That’s unfortunate.”
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