Alle-Catt Wind Farm opponents cheered Tuesday’s primary victories in Farmersville and Freedom, convinced the winds had shifted in their favor.
The leaders of both Farmersville United and Freedom United, groups formed over concerns by Invenergy’s plan to build more than 100 wind turbines up to 600 feet tall in Farmersville, Freedom, Centerville, Rushford and Arcade called the primary results a game-changer.
Farmersville Supervisor Robert Karcher, an Alle-Catt booster, lost the Republican primary to Francis “Pete” Lounsbury Jr., 94-65. Lounsbury, who is also on the Conservative and Independence party lines, is unopposed in the November election.
Also in Farmersville, Donna Vickman, the Cattaraugus County Legislature majority leader and an Alle-Catt opponent, won the Independence primary over Dale Scurr in a write-in effort 11-5. Vickman, who is also on the Republican and Conservative party lines, is unopposed for a one-year vacancy on the Town Board.
Karcher said earlier this month there are no plans to bring up a revised wind law this year.
The Cattaraugus County Planning Board disallowed the Farmersville wind law revisions requested by Invenergy that increased the height of turbines from 450 feet to 600 feet. To bring it up for another vote would require a 4-vote supermajority.
Another Alle-Catt opponent, Farmersville United President Mark Heberling, is also on the Farmersville ballot in November, seeking one of two Town Board seats.
“We were on cloud nine. This was a monster statement,” Heberling told the Olean Times Herald in an interview Thursday. “We’ve been telling the Town Board we had concerns. We spoke at the public hearings. They said there was a silent majority of supporters and we were not a true reflection. First we had the survey, and now a landslide victory here.”
It was a record voter turnout for a primary, he said.
Heberling is looking for a win in November to flip the Town Board to a 3-2 body opposed to the current wind farm plans.
“This can flip the board,” Heberling said. The board, he said, has up until the Invenergy application is accepted by the state Siting Board. “They have to keep town law in mind.”
Heberling said there is still time to enact increased setbacks from property lines and residences and property value guarantees. There are also concerns to address over alleged conflicts of interest by three members of the Farmersville Town Board, he said.
“We believe this should really send a strong message to our town board what the community wants,” Heberling said. “It’s not a small minority, it’s just the opposite. A few leaseholders are manipulating the town board.”
Farmersville United is trying to track the source of five mailings on behalf of Karcher, Heberlng said.
Freedom United President Stephanie Milks said, “The primary was very critical. This will help us secure a 3-2 vote if our wind law comes back rejected as null and void.”
The Freedom Town Board passed a new wind law last year without a full environmental assessment. The county Planning Board erred in approving the Freedom Wind Law without the assessment completed and urged the Town Board to resubmit the law.
After the Town Board refused, Freedom United sued to overturn the wind law. Arguments were heard in state Supreme Court in Little Valley on April 30, though a decision has not yet been announced.
The two successful Republican candidates running in the primary – John Hill, the incumbent and Geoffrey Milks – are wind farm opponents. They outpolled Raymond Feness, who reportedly has a wind lease.
Milks said there were mailings on behalf of Feness, an Alle-Catt supporter, that were similar to the mailings for Karcher for supervisor in Farmersville.
“He would have had to recuse himself anyway,” Milks said. “It has been very, very difficult to try to stop the corruption.” The board is 3-2 for the wind farm now.
“We hope to flip it in November,” Milks said. “We’re very happy with the primary results.”