Hartsville approves wind lawOpponents walk out when Cohocton councilman compares them with those opposing civil rights
By ROB MONTANA
HARTSVILLE — Most of Thursday's public hearing on Hartsville's wind energy law was calm. Until comments from a Cohocton official sent four people out the door.
That didn't stop the Hartsville town board from accepting the law, as well as issuing a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review process. Town Attorney David Pullen was quick to point out the negative declaration was simply for the law, not for wind projects.
Just before the end of the public hearing — which lasted around ; an hour and a half, and drew around 25 people — Cohocton Councilman Wayne Hunt addressed those in attendance. He called out the "NIMB Ys," which stands for'. "Not In My Back Yard," criticizing their tactics in opposing wind farms. Hunt compared them to people who fought the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and said they are "always with us."
"They were convinced our society could not survive if we sent black children to school with our white ones and property values would go into the toilet if we let blacks move into our neighborhoods," he said. "They were here in the '80s when New York state put community homes in our towns for the mentally handicapped who were then housed in development centers. Those institutions were converted to state prisons.
"NIMBYs were convinced that community homes would be mismanaged, their presence in our neighborhoods would drive real estate values into the Dumpster and the prisons would bring lawlessness and crime to our rural areas," Hunt added. "The NIMBYs are here tonight, driven by the same emotion that drives all NIMBYs: F-E-A-R."
He said what separates the opponents of the past and the ones that currently exist is that they have been successful in driving local officials out of office. "In the past, they did not employ tactics that drove elected officials out of their offices," Hunt said. "Doing this smacks of hometown terrorism. If you doubt me, look at your own town board.
"I did not know your now-absent town supervisor, but I was briefly acquainted with George Prior," he added. "He is a gentleman; thoughtful, considerate and dedicated to the prospect of wind-powered electricity. I can tell you, it was a dark day when he was driven from your board."
Four people who oppose having a wind farm in the town — including the most vocal one, Steve Dombert — got up and left during Hunt's speech, while former Deputy Supervisor George Prior nodded in agreement with what Hunt was saying. His comments got a round of applause from those who were left when
"I want to note that Mr. Hunt called us and asked to speak tonight," said Deputy Supervisor Gene Garrison, clarifying what brought Hunt to the meeting. "We did not contact him."
When contacted this morning, Dombert said he left the meeting because Hunt "is a radical."
"If you don't share his views he calls you a 'home grown terrorist,'" Dombert said in an e-mail. "Give me a break. He should confine himself to causing trouble in his own hometown."
As for the wind law, he said it should have been done much sooner.
"It should have been the very first action in November of '05 when we were repeatedly told 'the board can do nothing,"' Dombert said. "Better late than never." When asked what his next course of action would be, he responded "Who knows?"
At the start of the hearing, Pullen addressed the crowd, saying the wind law was necessary for the town to be able to exert any control over a potential wind farm.
"This is not a local law to allow or not allow windmills in the Town of Hartsville," he said. "Whether you like windmills or hate windmills, this law — or another one like it — is, in my opinion, essential."
Pullen also said past allegations the wind law was developed with the help of Airtricity were false, and that he hadn't spoken to anyone from Airtricity until Thursday morning when a company representative contacted him to talk about the law. He said Hartsville's law came from a model law, with some additions made to it.
"I saw this law and set it aside for use with towns I work with," he said. "If anything, we have made more stringent some of the standards."
Richard Stephens asked some questions about wording in the law, particularly with how it dealt with small wind turbines, which he is considering for his Call Hill property. Resident Joyce DeWall, wife of highway superintendent Tom DeWall and mother of former supervisor Amy Emerson, asked why the setbacks had been increased from 1,000 feet to 1,200 feet.
Pullen explained the town determined that after hearing the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency was planning to adopt that as a standard. He said that anyone wishing to do a wind project in town would have to meet the town's standards and the IDA's standards.
"Our law is mirroring the county guidelines," added Councilman Jim Perry.
Dombert asked about the town board's ability to grant waivers, and wanted to know if the town could force residents to grant easements.
"I'm not aware of any authority for the town to compel an easement for a private company," Pullen responded.
He was then asked if eminent domain could come into play.
"They can do it for a town purpose, but I don't see any town purpose," Pullen said. "At this point the wind energy company would have to get easements, and they do not have eminent domain powers.
"I have never heard any hint from the town board they would want to use eminent domain power," he added, "and most town boards are almost diametrically opposed to eminent domain."