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Farmersville, Concerned Citizens file lawsuits against Alle-Catt decision

The Town of Farmersville and Coalition of Concerned Citizens are challenging the New York State Siting Board’s decision to approve the 117-turbine Alle-Catt wind farm in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court.

In June, the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment granted a certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need to Alle-Catt Wind Farm LLC for the 340 megawatt wind farm stretching over three counties.

The $455 million Alle-Cattt Wind Farm was first proposed three years ago.

Gary Abraham, attorney for the Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCC), and Zoghlin Group of Rochester, representing the Town of Farmersville, both filed lawsuits against the Siting Board and Alle-Catt Wind Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Invenergy, with the Fourth Department of the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Rochester.

Farmersville and CCC had asked for a rehearing before the Siting Board, a request that was denied Sept. 26. There were 30 days to file to challenge the Siting Board’s decision.

Abraham’s lawsuit seeks to annul the Siting Board’s order and asks the court to find board members violated the law in refusing to consider Farmersville’s local laws passed in early 2020. The lawsuit also seeks to enjoin Alle-Catt from engaging in any construction activity until the case is decided.

“There’s no authority under Article 10 for the Siting Board to disregard a law passed before a decision is made,” Abraham said.

In January, the Farmersville Town Board, with a 3-2 majority opposed to the 2019 local wind law, began the process of approving a new law with a 450-foot limit on turbine height, greater setbacks and quieter sound limits. The 2019 law changed the setbacks and allowed turbines up to 600 feet tall.

Abraham said the Siting Board was also wrong in not applying the 2007 Freedom local wind law after a 2019 local law was overturned in state Supreme Court in Cattaraugus County. Judge Terrence Parker specified the 2007 Freedom law as the prevailing law after overturning the 2019 law.

The 2019 local law was improperly adopted by the Freedom Town Board after the Cattaraugus County Planning Board withdrew its approval of the Freedom law because it did not fit the county’s rural character and was not in keeping with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Abraham said the impact of the rural character of the 104-square-mile footprint of the wind farm in the towns of Farmersville, Freedom, Centerville, Rushford and Arcade is apparent in before and after visual impact studies with and without the 600-foot turbines.

Abraham said two other important issues surrounding the Siting Board’s decision – the bottleneck to getting the electricity generated by the proposed wind farm to where it is needed, Downstate – and the displacement of Farmersville’s Old Order Amish community.

The lawsuit seeks to compel the Siting Board to accept the State Supreme Court’s Freedom decision from earlier this year.

Farmersville Supervisor Francis “Pete” Lounsbury said the Town Board’s 3-2 majority “was elected to fight this project to put it back on Farmersville terms.”

He said the 2021 town budget contains $60,000 for legal fees – much of which will be directed at fighting the Alle-Catt Wind Farm.

Jim Shannon, president of Taxpayers United, a group that supports the wind project, said, “Freedom and Farmersville Taxpayers United is disappointed that the Farmersville Town Board has decided to waste taxpayer dollars on an appeal of the New York Siting Board’s approval of Alle-Catt Wind Farm.”

Shannon said, “This appeal will divert $60,000 of taxpayer dollars intended for the maintenance of our roads in an effort to delay the realization of $9.1 million in annual revenue for the community. This is funding that will secure decades of tax relief to local residents and businesses. Our taxpayer dollars should be used to spur economic development and investment – not halt it. Despite the Town Board’s efforts, Taxpayers United remains committed to the Alle-Catt Wind Farm and ensuring the economic benefits of the project are delivered to our community,” he said.

Lounsbury said 80% of the town residents support the town board in its decision to appeal the Siting Board’s decision. Many of the Taxpayers United are either leaseholders or relatives of leaseholders, Lounsbury said.

Arguments in the lawsuits will be heard Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. by the Appellate Division justices in Rochester.