The town of Henderson is again suing neighboring Hounsfield over a matter related to the development of a wind turbine project on Galloo Island, which is in Hounsfield.
Henderson filed action Thursday in state Supreme Court alleging, among other things, that Hounsfield amended its zoning law to include wind power generating facilities under its definition of “essential services” without notifying Henderson of its intent to do so.
“They tried to sneak a change into their zoning law without anyone noticing what was going on, because their zoning law doesn’t permit windmills,” Henderson Supervisor John J. Culkin said.
Hounsfield Supervisor Timothy W. Scee declined comment as he had not yet seen the lawsuit.
At issue is Hounsfield’s Nov. 7 adoption of its 2018 Local Law #2, which added wind projects to its zoning law as an essential service. Mr. Culkin contends that the new law allows for the construction of commercial wind farms anywhere in Hounsfield, including Galloo Island, which is in a marine zoning district where wind turbines are currently not permitted.
Henderson, which has long opposed wind turbines on the island, claims the project will numerous environmental impacts, including visual, noise, lighting and avian impacts, and could affect Henderson’s character, as well as its pattern of growth and development.
“If you’re going to screw over the town of Henderson with your windmills, at least you’re going to follow the rules,” Mr. Culkin said.
According to the lawsuit, Hounsfield was required under state Town Law to notify Henderson’s town clerk in writing at least 10 days in advance about a Nov. 7 public hearing, but failed to do so.
A public notice of the hearing was published Oct. 22 in the Watertown Daily Times. According to Hounsfield’s minutes of its Nov. 7 meeting, no one commented on the local law during the hearing and the law was then adopted later in the meeting.
“It’s our belief that they really tried to slide the public hearing under the radar,” Mr. Culkin said.
Henderson additionally contends in its suit that Hounsfield failed to complete an environmental impact assessment required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, failed to refer the proposed local law to the Jefferson County Planning Board for review and failed to ensure that the new law is consistent with Hounsfield’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan.
Based on these claims, Henderson is asking a judge to invalidate the local law.
Mr. Culkin and Henderson maintain that Hounsfield’s Local Law #2 was formulated by Apex Clean Energy, the developer of the Galloo Island Wind project.
“It’s about time the machinations the town of Hounsfield is engaged in should be done in the light of day,” he said.
Henderson is joined in its legal action by town resident Claudia Maurer as trustee of the Florence A.M. Maurer Irrevocable Trust and Montague Family Trust, which jointly own Stony Island. Ms. Maurer, an opponent of the Galloo Island project, claims she and the trusts are also impacted by Hounsfield’s local law.
Henderson and Hounsfield are parties to the state Article 10 application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need required for the Galloo Island project. As part of that process, a siting board will give each town an opportunity to present evidence in support of or opposition to any amendment to a local law.
The two towns have tangled in court before over a project to bring a wind farm to Galloo Island. In February 2010, Henderson filed a legal challenge to a project proposed by Upstate NY Power Corp. that called for a transmission line through Henderson.
That project stalled in October 2011 when the New York Power Authority determined that NYPA would not enter into a power-purchase agreement with the project. In June 2013, the state Public Service Commission denied Upstate NY Power’s application to construct a 50.6-mile electrical transmission line that would connect the wind farm to the Fitzpatrick-Edic Substation in the town of Mexico, Oswego County. That project was never built.
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