FARMERSVILLE – A sea of green T-shirts at the Farmersville Town Board meeting Monday night were intended to show the board the depth of opposition to the proposed industrial wind turbines of the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm.
The T-shirts read: “Big Wind Lies” across the front.
Town board members did not discuss the results of the recent wind survey of town property owners. The surveys showed 195 residents opposed to the wind farm, 139 in support and 41 undecided.
Ginger Schroder, a Farmersville resident and an attorney representing Farmersville United, a group opposed to the proposed changes in the town’s wind law, scolded Supervisor Robert Karcher for his misinterpretation of the results.
Karcher had called the results “close” if undecideds and those who didn’t return the surveys were included.
Schroder said 52 percent of respondents were against it and 37 were in favor.
“We do not know how one can take it upon themselves to decide for the undecideds that they are in favor of the project, then add them to the ‘in favor’ of the project column and then declare the poll even,” Schroder said. “In any general poll, a closing lead of 15 percentage points is a landslide – which is what the project opposition had.”
Schroder tried to put the developer’s 200 letters of support for the project in the record into perspective. She said she could verify 105 of the letters that came from town residents, 46 of whom had leases associated with the Alle-Catt project. Many of the others were form letters which came from out-of-county construction workers, she said. Others were illegible or had no signature or return address.
Overlooked were the 125 Amish who live in the town, all of whom are against the project, but had only 10 votes on the 10 parcels of land they own. Adding in the Amsh voices would increase the total against the project to 211, Schroder said.
She told the town board that the town of Franklinville had hired her and Great Valley environmental attorney Gary Abraham to represent their 3,000 residents.
“The board is adamantly opposed to the project and wants to fight it all the way,” Schroder said. “Those are your actual neighbors. Not out-of-town construction workers.”
Schroder called on the Farmersville board “to give us a stronger wind law” including 3,000-foot setbacks to property lines. In addition, Farmersville United would like a 450-feet maximum height for the wind turbines – the same as in the current wind law.
Attorney David Spitzer, who represents Alle-Catt developer Invenergy, told the board they were “being set up for a civil rights lawsuit.” He told them they can’t make a decision on a survey “based on mob rule.” He added: “You are doing everything correctly. You are listening to the people.”
Schroder responded, saying, “Article 10 doesn’t say it (height) has to be 600 feet.”
Article 10 is the law governing the siting of wind projects in New York state.
One member of those attending the meeting took exception with Spitzer’s characterization of opponents attending the meeting as “mob rule.” He said, “This is democracy in action.”
Town board members passed two resolutions prepared by attorney David DiMatteo. One was an amended version of Part I of the Environmental Assessment Form that the Cattaraugus County Planning Board referred back to the town board last month as ambiguous and incomplete. A second resolution authorized re-submitting the form to the planning board.
“You want to know what the planning board is thinking,” DiMatteo told board members. “Maybe next month we’ll have something to talk about.”
Donna Vickman of Farmersville, the Cattaraugus County Legislature majority leader, said she is trying to remain neutral. She noted that she supported the County Legislature resolution last year urging the county Industrial Development Agency not to give tax breaks to large wind projects. It passed with only two no votes.
“Whatever happens, it should go back to what the residents want,” Vickman added.
Karcher said after the meeting he thought the board would discuss the results of the wind survey, but the meeting was busy and he forgot about it after Schroder brought it up.
The board will probably discuss the survey, which it held to help determine sentiment for the wind farm, after it hears back from the county planning board, the supervisor added.
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