PERRY -- Uncertainty over the Dairy Hills Wind Farm led to the decision to freeze its State Environmental Quality Review process.
"We've got a number of projects that are in various stages of development and under review in various towns, and decided to focus on those that had more certainty around them," said Project Manager Gary Davidson on Monday.
Horizon Wind Energy, which proposed Dairy Hills, is also pursuing wind farms in areas including the town of Alabama; the town of Arkwright in Chautauqua County; and near the Marble River in Clinton County.
The company is also planning several projects outside New York state.
"The decision basically was, 'Let's focus our resources on accomplishing these projects we have more confidence in, and bringing along those projects that are in the early stages of development,'" he said.
The Dairy Hills Wind Farm was proposed more than four years ago. It was subject to a major revision last year which reduced its size from 60 to 38 turbines.
The project has generated adamant supporters and opposition, and progress has been slow. In comparison, larger projects were completed during the past two years in Eagle, Wethersfield and Sheldon.
Some residents have expressed frustrations at the town's lack of a decision, pro or con.
The suspension does not mean the project has been canceled. The proposal hasn't been withdrawn, and Horizon's maintaining its agreements with area landowners.
The company will likewise keep its office open in the village, and continues to monitor the town's wind conditions.
Davidson said he doesn't know what the timeline will be. He said landowners were informed two weeks ago at a dinner, and Horizon appreciates their continued patience and support.
"This has been a long process for them, and we've tried to keep them in the loop to the greatest extent we could ... and let them know our intentions, and very much communicate to them we are not going to be leaving town," Davidson said. "We are still very much committed to the project and the community. It's just that conditions are such that we are focusing on the other projects to get those done."
He said he had informed Town Supervisor Jim Brick personally and also sent an e-mail.
The news, which was announced by Brick at Wednesday's Town Board meeting, has given rise to speculation, said Dick Greene, one of the project's vocal opponents.
"We're still a little bit in the dark," he said. "All we know is what the supervisor said at the last Town Board meeting, and that was Horizon wants to put the project on hold indefinitely."
Among other speculation, opponents have wondered if the announcement is a first step for the company to quietly abandon the project entirely, by letting its proposal lapse.
The Town Board on Wednesday had discussed establishing a deadline after which the application would expire, in the event it isn't revived.
Greene said opponents have also speculated the upcoming town elections may have been a factor, with anti-turbine candidates receiving both the Democratic and Republican endorsements.
They're running unopposed, although there's also been rumors of a write-in campaign.
"It's speculation on our part, but (Horizon) might not want to say anything until after the election makes it official," he said.
But the news has given some hope to opponents.
"We're guardedly optimistic," Greene said. "They still have a legal request to go through the permitting process, and it depends on how the town lawyer decides to put a deadline on it. They can't put the project off for five years or 10 years, but I'm also sure they want more than a week, so somewhere they'll have to reach an agreement where if it's not viable, something will have to happen."
He said there seems to be a sense that project support might be dwindling, and noted the recent lack of Horizon advertisements in local pennysavers.
"They presented all of the pros and gone out and canvassed door to door and done a lot of things and so have we," Greene said. "I think public sentiment was pretty much evident at the Democratic and Republican primaries, and we'll see what happens. It's a matter now of seeing what the Town Board has its lawyer do, if they have an agreement they can reach."
Some supporters are upset at the news, and blamed the Town Board for the delay.
"Seems to me this Perry Town Board has produced the exact result it set out to get: a retreat by Horizon so the Town Board is relieved of making a public decision," said resident Linda Huffman, who belongs to the Citizens for Wind Energy group.
If any effort has been made to work out a compromise, it's a secret to anybody who's followed the process over the past four years, she said.
"As far as many of us can see, they've done nothing but stall and allow the town's legal counsel to charge Horizon multiple times the amount of (money) they originally said they'd need to complete the SEQR process," Huffman said. "I don't blame Horizon for the snail's pace this project has taken."
She said she also doesn't blame Horizon to refusing to pay an additional town request to fund its legal counsel for the SEQR process when nothing gets done.