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Lighthouse Wind sues Somerset for delays

Lighthouse Wind has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Somerset Planning Board for delaying its proposed project to install two meteorological towers. The suit was filed Nov. 3 and will tentatively be argued in State Supreme Court in Niagara Falls on Dec. 5.

Lighthouse Wind is seeking a special use permit from the town planning board to install two 197-foot temporary meteorological and wind measurement towers on private property, that will be in place from no more than three years. The towers are used for the collection of meteorological data such as temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure and wind direction. The data collected would allow Lighthouse Wind to determine the viability of its proposed wind turbine project in the town.

The developer has already erected two such towers, one is in Somerset on Lower Lake Road across from the Golden Hill State Park entrance and the other is in Yates near the intersection of Marshall and Lower Lake roads.

According to the court documents, Lighthouse Wind claims that the town planning board did not come to a determination on its special use permit application within a set time of 62 days after the closing of the public hearing, per state law. The hearing was closed Aug. 4 and the suit claims a determination should have been made by Oct. 5.

On Oct. 6, the planning board determined that the towers Lighthouse Wind was requesting are a Type 1 action based on New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations and requested the developer submit a full environmental assessment form before a special use permit is granted.

According to SEQRA, any structure exceeding 100-feet above the original ground level in a locality without any zoning regulations pertaining to height is considered a Type 1 action, requiring a full environmental assessment.

Court documents from Lighthouse Wind state this acts as a way to “further delay and frustrate” the planned development.

At the time of the October decision, planning board members claimed this was not to completely dismiss the towers but to get more information regarding safety and environmental concerns. They raised several concerns about the safety and environmental impact of the meteorological towers, including set-backs, air and ground safety and aesthetics.

Although Lighthouse Wind addressed those concerns in a short environmental assessment form, SEQRA regulations require a more in-depth assessment.

The suit also claims that the application for the site plan and special use permit were illegally discussed during an executive session.

According to Somerset Supervisor Dan Engert, “The planning board simply asked for more information.

“Rather than oblige and extend the timeline themselves, provide the additional information so the planning board could make a decision, they made the decision to go to court and ask the court to force the timeline,” Engert said. “The applicant has every ability to extend the timeline and work with the municipality. In this case, they chose not to. So we’re going to go to court for it. It’s just an unfortunate situation.”

In his opinion, Engert said, “It’s an example that this developer is going to force its own timeline and it’s going to force its timeline to force its project. That’s been our experience.”

“The town will deal with it, we’ll respond,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to be looking out for the best interest of our citizens and doing our job to protect their health, wellness and best interests.”