The owners of the historic lighthouse on Galloo Island want to know what Hounsfield town officials will do to represent their interests in the review process for Apex Clean Energy’s Galloo Island Wind project.
Anthony D. Dibnah and Cara C. Dibnah, who own the Historic Places Galloo Island Lighthouse property, said they received little to no response from their elected officials about how they will use the town’s intervenor funding, or funding awarded by administrative law judges for parties to hire consultants during a project’s review, to ensure their lighthouse, about 150 years old, will be preserved.
The couple intended to renovate the 60-foot lighthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the 2,200-square-foot living quarters attached to it and transform them into a bed-and-breakfast inn, Mr. Dibnah said. Mrs. Dibnah, however, said they postponed their plans when the project was announced.
“The chances of any commercial venture would be nil,” she said.
Hounsfield Supervisor Timothy W. Scee said town officials have received the Dibnahs’ concerns and considered them for the project’s review.
Mr. Scee said the couple and any town resident should contact the board directly with any comments about Apex Clean Energy’s proposed 110.4-megawatt project wind farm. The Town Board will review those concerns and determine whether to submit them to the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment.
“They’re welcome to contact the town any time they like,” he said. “(They) should send their concerns to the town and we will forward those on to the appropriate entity.”
The couple, who currently live in Nevada, said they had little contact from their elected officials during the past six months except for a few emails.
Worried their elected officials would fail to update them, Mrs. Dibnah said they sent a mass email to officials Jan. 19 sharing their concerns about the project, including its potential impact on property values, how the town would protect the health and safety of its residents and how either the developer or the town would respond if one of the turbines caught fire, considering that the Village of Sackets Harbor Fire Department is six miles away and inland.
Mr. Dibnah said they also asked how allowing Apex Clean Energy to build its Galloo Island Wind project complied with the town’s zoning law, referencing it by saying the project would not enhance or preserve the island’s historic or recreational values, conserve land values or follow the town’s comprehensive plan. Mr. Scee said the town’s zoning law was reviewed when Upstate N.Y. Power Corp. proposed its iteration of the project years earlier to ensure it would permit wind development on the island.
“We’re just trying to open a dialogue and protect our property as best as we can,” Mrs. Dibnah said.
Only Timothy R. Queior, a member of the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, responded to their email.
In his email, Mr. Queior asked the couple why they never had an issue with potential fire hazards when they purchased the property and said the federal government would not permit wind farms that would harm their health.
“In a system of democracy the majority rules!” he said in his email. “This to me is progress, and you can’t stand in the way of progress! I understand your frustration so you might consider selling while your property still has value and your desire for the benefits that the mainland provides!”
Mr. Queior said he and his fellow Town Zoning Board of Appeals members are not involved in the review, prompting him to respond and prevent future involvement in the couple’s “battle.” He encouraged them to attend Town Board meetings in person to share their comments.
“Show up here if you have a problem,” he said. “They knew what they were doing when they bought a property on an island. I don’t feel sorry for them.”
Mr. Scee said the Dibnahs received no additional responses from other town officials because their concerns were already brought to the developer.
Administrative law judges awarded Hounsfield and the village of Sackets Harbor intervenor funding in August, but denied the Dibnahs’ request because they thought the keeper’s quarters on their property was not considered a dwelling.
Last week, Mrs. Dibnah said she asked the judges if more funding was available and to provide their definition for dwelling, adding that neither Article 10 nor Jefferson County zoning laws require occupation for properties to be considered dwellings. Mr. Dibnah said he thought the judges would be able to reallocate funds because the town had not used all of its funding
“I just think the siting board made the wrong decision,” Mr. Dibnah said.
Ashley Moreno, one of three administrative law judges, replied Wednesday to Mrs. Dibnah, saying that the judges denied their request because the Dibnahs have not demonstrated that their property was “habitable” and that no more funding was available. The couple can apply for additional intervenor funding once Apex Clean Energy submits its application, she said in her response, so long as the couple can prove their property is habitable.
“With regards to the stipulations process, you are entitled to represent your own interests and actively participate in the stipulations process,” she said in her response. “During the stipulations negotiations process you may communicate your positions and concerns to the other parties, including the project developer, (Apex Clean Energy), and the Town of Hounsfield.”
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