A long-brewing storm developed into a Category 5 hurricane at the Town of Sanford board meeting Tuesday night as tempers flared and a portion of the session turned into a raucous yelling match between a board member and wind farm opponents.
Emotions boiled over when the town board refused to challenge the state’s decision to site a 124-megawatt wind turbine installation in eastern Broome County.
In an often nasty exchange, council member Alice Ray, in a raised voice, called out project opponents for what she said were their efforts to sow seeds of divisiveness in a tight-knit community. But she came under sharp criticism by project opponents for her conflict as a property owner who will receive payments from the project sponsor.
Last month, the New York Siting Board approved a 27-turbine installation in the towns of Sanford and Windsor, dismissing a recently passed Sanford law that placed severe limits on turbine tower setbacks and noise, restrictions that ultimately would have doomed the renewable energy project.
Testy from the start, the meeting turned ugly during the public comment period when some speakers targeted the board with barbed words on what they termed was their indifference to a decision that bucked a recently passed town law designed to thwart the installation.
“This project is ridiculous, and it’s so destructive and it’s a nightmare that won’t end,” said Cassie Woodford, a town resident.
But opponents’ efforts fell far short of convincing the board that appealing the state siting board decision would end in success.
After considering the possibility of appealing the siting board’s approval of the project, they decided the effort was unlikely to succeed.
“We’ve all seen, the Article 10 process stacks the deck against local municipalities, and we feel that, at this point, challenging the Siting Board’s decision is a losing proposition,” said board member Edwin Ditewig. “The board believes that it’s now time for us to focus on minimizing the day-to-day disruptions and concerns that this project may cause if it does end up being built, and maximizing whatever benefits to the town that may exist as a result of the presence of wind turbines.”
Ditewig acknowledged the decision would be unpopular with a vocal group of opponents, but it was best to leave the fight behind and maximize the benefits from the more than $200 million construction project that could generate more than $20 million in revenues to local taxing authorities.
A local opposition group, however, is expected to file an appeal to the siting board before Wednesday’s deadline.
The possibility of incremental revenues from the project and the potential for reduced taxes did nothing to soothe the opposition. They urged the town to reject project sponsor appeals for tax breaks, advising the board to assess turbine towers at full value.
Residents warned board members to expect a long line of grievances on residential property assessments when wind tower construction begins, when they say views and the aesthetics of the community will be drastically altered, impacting property values across the heavily forested town close to the southwestern edge of Catskill Park.
Houston-based Calpine expects to build 23 turbine towers, some reaching more than 650 feet in height from base to the top of the blade tip, on hilltops across the village. Another four turbines will be built to the west in the Town of Windsor, where opposition was slightly more muted.
Aside from the towers, the project is designed to include access roads to the turbines, along with electric collection lines and a substation, among other facilities to be included in construction.
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