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Freedom supervisor defends position on turbines

FREEDOM, N.Y. – “If you think I’m not doing this for the Town of Freedom, you’re dead wrong,” Supervisor Randy Lester told those present at the board’s June 17 meeting. “My wife and I have a vested interest in Freedom. I own three properties here.”

Lester was responding to several criticisms of his actions regarding a planned industrial wind turbine project in the township. The proposed and controversial Alle-Catt Wind Farm will include 33 large turbines in Freedom as part of a project that also includes portions of Farmersville, Rushford, Centerville and Arcade. Altogether, 117 of the 600-foot-tall structures are planned.

Opponents of the project are concerned that the large turbines will spoil the rural beauty of the town, have cited issues of flicker, ice thrown and other environmental effects, and a potential loss of property values.

When asked his opinion on a Host Community Agreement proposed by Invenergy, Councilman John Hill listed several concerns. These included his belief that not enough monetary compensation was offered in the proposed agreement and that the setbacks listed in the proposal were “a joke.” He also mentioned that only 13 of the 33 turbines would be... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

FREEDOM, N.Y. – “If you think I’m not doing this for the Town of Freedom, you’re dead wrong,” Supervisor Randy Lester told those present at the board’s June 17 meeting. “My wife and I have a vested interest in Freedom. I own three properties here.”

Lester was responding to several criticisms of his actions regarding a planned industrial wind turbine project in the township. The proposed and controversial Alle-Catt Wind Farm will include 33 large turbines in Freedom as part of a project that also includes portions of Farmersville, Rushford, Centerville and Arcade.  Altogether, 117 of the 600-foot-tall structures are planned.

Opponents of the project are concerned that the large turbines will spoil the rural beauty of the town, have cited issues of flicker, ice thrown and other environmental effects, and a potential loss of property values.

When asked his opinion on a Host Community Agreement proposed by Invenergy, Councilman John Hill listed several concerns. These included his belief that not enough monetary compensation was offered in the proposed agreement and that the setbacks listed in the proposal were “a joke.”  He also mentioned that only 13 of the 33 turbines would be located on properties owned by those who actually live in Freedom.

“Basically, Invenergy is using the town,” Hill concluded.

Hill asked Lester about private discussions he had with the company and “an apparent conflict of interest” the supervisor had regarding the project (Lester’s brother Scott is one of the landowners who would be leasing land to Invenergy). Lester was also chastised for appearing at a county legislature meeting and supporting leaseholder and local farmer John Borer.

“John Borer’s is not a family farm, it’s a conglomerate,” Hill said.

He also mentioned that Invenergy had been fined for not publishing the names of town officials with “apparent conflicts of interest,” as required by a Code of Conduct enacted by the state attorney general’s office.

The supervisor made it clear that his brother lives “in a different town in a different county,” and that he and his brother are somewhat estranged. Regarding his contact with Invenergy, Lester pointed out, “I am the supervisor,” inferring that someone in that role had to be available and involved. The supervisor also cited high paying jobs, increased revenues to the county and several school districts, and a better local economy as his reasons for being in favor of the turbines.

“My suggestion is that we move forward with the Host Community Agreement,” he said.

Councilman Ann Marie Dixon said she had “no issue” with these meetings but asked Hill if he thought she shouldn’t be meeting with Invenergy, as well.

“Sometimes you need a one-on-one,” she said. “I go to get more information.”

Lester said, “We have to have conversations. Someone has to be a spokesperson.” He added there was also the issue that if three or more members of the council were present, the discussions would require an advertised board meeting. Lester pointed out that the board would have to approve any decisions or negotiations anyway.  Lester suggested that another board member be appointed to attend any future meetings with Invenergy with him.

Councilman Hill suggested that since he and Councilman Jolene Esposito were “both against the windmills it should be one of us. It would bring both sides together,” he said.

Hill nominated Esposito and she agreed. Lester said he would set something up and also suggested the board have a special meeting on July 1 to discuss the proposed host agreement further.

When asked her take on the proposed host agreement, Councilman Dixon said, “It’s my opinion that we hold off on the host agreement because of Farmersville. We’re getting ahead of the game.”

Dixon was referring to an issue the Farmersville Town Board was having regarding its wind turbine law, and with several conflicts of interest regarding Farmersville town officials and board members. (See sidebar).

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Geoff Milks complimented the board on its decision to “hold off” on approving the host agreement.  “It seems like a wise move,” he said.

Another resident asked Lester if he was for the whole town why he had appeared at the county meeting to support just one (Borer). She added that it “took a letter to the Attorney General to find out that there were 13 apparent conflicts of interest.” Another woman said that judging by the comments at two public hearings on June 11, “there are quite a few residents against the windmills.” She also mentioned that she, and many other residents, had not been notified about the hearings.

A leaseholder on Brown Schoolhouse Road said he felt his lease was signed under “false pretenses.” He said the location of the turbines would affect more of his property than what he had been told. “They have moved everything,” he said. “I asked when they were going to notify other leaseholders of changes. They told me they didn’t have enough time. I want the board to take this into consideration before a host agreement.”

Invenergy representative Scott Johnson replied, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”

Councilman Dixon asked him to clarify the matter and Johnson said that the siting of the towers had changed.

Conflicts could affect Farmersville’s wind project

As part of its Alle-Catt Wind Farm, Invenergy plans to erect 24 industrial turbines in the Cattaraugus County town of Farmersville. According to Ginger Schroeder Esq., an attorney representing residents opposed to the project, the town clerk, two deputy clerks, the town supervisor, a justice, and two councilmen either have leases, or have family members who have leases, with Invenergy.

She mentioned that Invenergy was fined $25,000 (negotiated down to $15,000) for failing to publish the names of town officials who have apparent conflicts of interest.

Abiding by the Attorney General’s Code of Conduct is voluntary and failure to do so is not a violation of law, however, the company has agreed to its terms. (Invenergy has said the names were not published because they had not updated their disclosure list, and that the company took immediate action to correct it.)

In addition, Farmersville’s turbine law was rejected by the Cattaraugus County Planning Board and its passage would require a super majority of the board – in this case the remaining four members who are eligible to vote. Schroeder believes this is unlikely, and added a survey done by the board shows only 37 percent of town residents approve of the proposed wind farm.

Schroeder explained another potential stalemate regards a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes. She said Invenergy has stated if there is no PILOT there will be no project. The Cattaraugus County Legislature voted 13 to 2 in August of 2018 to prevent the Industrial Development Agency from granting a PILOT to any project over 25 MW. According to its application, the Alle-Catt Wind Farm is a proposed 340 MW project.

Meanwhile, a group of Freedom residents opposed to the project there, Freedom United, have sued the town board. The group says the Freedom board did not follow proper procedures in passing its revised wind law, which allows for higher turbines and other changes. The matter has been briefed and argued and a decision is pending.


Source: https://www.arcadeherald.co...

JUN 28 2019
http://wind3.herokuapp.com/posts/50009-freedom-supervisor-defends-position-on-turbines
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