FARMERSVILLE – The Farmersville Town Board on Monday appointed George Duncan to a councilman vacancy, who almost immediately came under fire for being pro-wind.
“I’m very disappointed in the board’s action, but not surprised,” attorney Ginger Schroder told the board after Duncan’s appointment. “Mr. Duncan is very pro-wind,” she said.
Schroder represents opponents of the Alle-Catt Wind Farm, which has proposed 117 wind turbines in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties and in Arcade in Wyoming County.
Duncan was sworn in by Town Justice Jennifer Holmes-Karcher and took a seat at the table.
Duncan replaces Andrew J. Warner, who resigned March 18. Schroder described Warner as “a strong voice” to make sure the project was safe.
She told board members who voted for Duncan they had already made up their minds before the interviews.
Board member Pamela Tilton said, “We all made the decision.”
While Shroder alleged that Warner “quit because he was threatened,” Supervisor Robert Karcher said he wasn’t aware of any threats against Warner. The supervisor said Warner had a heavy workload and “a lot going on in his personal life.”
Karcher said the Town Board interviewed Duncan and Mark Heberling on May 13. Duncan was the choice 3-1. Councilman Richard Zink did not vote for Duncan.
Karcher agreed that Duncan could be a fourth vote on a local law amending the town’s wind turbine law.
“I’d like to decide in the next meeting or two,” Karcher said. If there is too much change in the proposed local law the board might have to go back to square one. “I’d like to get it done.” The town stands to receive $360,000 a year in host fees and payment in lieu of taxes.
After the Cattaraugus County Planning Board rejected the town’s proposed wind law last year, a super-majority, 4 out of the 5 votes, would be needed.
With Councilman Richard Westfall unable to vote because he has a lease for a wind turbine on his property, all four remaining board members would have had to vote for the law. Warner favored greater setbacks and a lower limits on the towers than the 600 feet Alle-Catt developer Invenergy was seeking.
Later in the meeting, Duncan said, “I can tell there are some hard feelings” over his appointment. ”I understand why this guy quit – the threats. I’ve been threatened myself. I personally believe I won’t benefit from it, but my grandchildren will.”
He told members of Farmersville United after the meeting that he wanted “to be open-minded.”
He said he’d done a lot of research and had listened to both sides at public hearings the town conducted on the wind law. He said he thought the setbacks from wind turbines to residences and the 600-foot height were protective of residents.
Alle-Catt Wind Farm is a $570 million project that would generate 340 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 134,000 homes for a year.
Town attorney David DiMatteo reminded the board and residents attending the meeting of public hearings on the project June 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the Arcade Fire Hall, and at 6 p.m. at Pioneer High School.
Invenergy attorney Aaron M. Saykin of Hodgson Russ Attorneys said, “It is the state Siting Board that decides the project, not this (town) board.” Under Article 10, the hearings are the place for feedback on the project.
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