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Freedom approves Invenergy community host agreement worth $12 million

SANDUSKY – The Freedom Town Board approved a host community agreement Monday with the developer of the Alle-Catt Wind Farm worth more than $12 million to the town over 20 years.

The $570 million Alle-Catt Wind Farm proposed by Invenergy would have 117 turbines in five towns – Freedom and Farmersville in northeast Cattaraugus County, Centerville and Rushford in northwest Allegany County and the town of Arcade in Wyoming County. They would rise up to 600 feet from base to blade tip.

Like the vote last year on a new wind law with changes requested by Invenergy, Monday night’s vote was 3-2.

Supervisor Randy Lester and Councilmen Ronald Ashworth and Ann Marie Dixon voted in the majority.

Voting against the host community agreement negotiated with Invenergy over the past couple of weeks were Councilmen John Hill and Jolene Esposito-Craft.

The supervisor said Dixon announced her resignation after the vote on the host community agreement. It is effective Aug. 1, Lester said. She has sold her house and is moving from the town, he said.

In an interview with the OleanTimes Herald on Tuesday, Hill said he and Esposito-Craft were not allowed to review the 12-page host community agreement prior to voting. Lester later denied that and said both councilmen participated in negotiations with Invenergy.

“We could not read the document before voting on it,” Hill said. “That’s a lie,” Lester replied.

Hill’s biggest regret is the wording of the host agreement that says Invenergy can sue the town if any changes are made in the town’s wind law. “I wanted it taken out of the agreement,” he said.

Hill maintains that the supervisor has a conflict in that his brother has a wind lease, and that Lester should not be voting on it. The host community agreement “doesn’t have any protections for residents,” he said.

It’s not a done deal yet, Hill said. Freedom United, a group of residents seeking greater safeguards on the wind turbines, has sued the town over its vote last year on the new wind law.

Lester is hoping the suit in state Supreme Court will find no wrongdoing by the town. If the town loses, it will appeal, the supervisor said.

Regarding Dixon, Hill said, “She voted on something that’s going to change the town for two generations – 40 years” and she moves out of town. Hill is afraid property values will go down if the wind turbines are built.

Lester said the town negotiated the community host agreement up to $5,000 per megawatt, up from $3,600. The first year the town will receive $504,000 in host fees, he said. Over 20 years that will add up to more than $12 million, thanks to a 2 percent increase each year, he said.

Hill said the results of the primary election in June moved up the schedule. The board could flip in the November election and be opposed to the project, he said.

“The primary had nothing to do with it,” Lester insisted. “We weren’t rushed. We had three or four meetings including a special meeting. The town attorney explained it to him (Hill).”

Lester said the $12 million Freedom would get over the 20-year host community agreement does not include funds for individuals with wind or other leases, or the amount going to schools and to Cattaraugus County.