Yates residents should be heard on largest project in town’s history
Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We stood with our hands over our hearts, with neighbors, with friends, in a room filled with our leaders, hopeful. But that’s as good as it got at the Orleans County Planning Board meeting Thursday night, April 23.
On the agenda was a Special Use Permit Application to erect a meteorological tower in the Town of Yates, an initial component of the Apex Clean Energy Lighthouse Wind project proposed for Yates and Somerset.
When the Planning Board suggested there be brief questions from citizens in attendance, I thought, “Oh good, we have an opportunity to voice our concerns – we might get a few questions answered about the MET tower.”
But that too was as good as it got. The Board then asked for a motion to allow comments from the floor. Crickets. The leaders of our county sat mute, looking at each other. Not one person said a word. Not even the one person who could have, and who should have.
Yates Councilman Steve Freeman, the County Planning Board member with the most on the line, didn’t want to hear from his constituents. He knows us. He knows our names and where we live. That didn’t matter. We were effectively silenced. He proceeded to inform the Planning Board of the Reader’s Digest version of the site plan, and how the Yates Town Board had relieved the Yates Planning Board of their responsibility for reviewing the application and submit recommendations. The Town Board would take it over.
Then there was the vote, after just moments of discussion. Unanimously approved. And then without missing a beat, a member of the Planning Board read a prepared two-part recommendation from a typed document. How in the world did they know what the recommendations would be before the meeting even took place?
So much for open government. The matter was sent back to the Town, with the only way of overturning the County Planning Board’s recommendation would be by a 4 out of 5 member vote by the Yates Town Board.
The meeting concluded, and the Planning Board members slowly filed out, along with the Apex project managers. A few of us had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Freeman in the hallway as we walked towards the exit. Yes, we were displeased with him not making the motion to allow input and questions.
And he told us why. He said, “You wouldn’t have stayed on the topic of the MET tower.” A Yates land owner replied, “Have you got a crystal ball or something? How do you know that?”
After a brief interaction, Mr. Freeman delivered a comment as he walked out of the building that none of us will forget, a comment that proves the mindset of our elected leader. He said, “If you don’t like what’s going on, MOVE!”
Move? No open dialogue, no civil discussion? Not even pretend to listen? Just MOVE? Apparently in Mr. Freeman’s world, there is no transparent government, or the ability to discuss our differences over the largest project in the history of Yates.
His only solution for those that don’t agree with him and the Town government is to move. Sorry Mr. Freeman, I probably couldn’t get a fair market price for my house now that a wind farm project is being proposed. And it might take years to sell.
Indivisible? No. We are divided, by the actions of Board members like Mr. Freeman. Justice for all? Nope. Just for the people in power, or with large piles of cash. He, like many, has forgotten the most important thing about holding public office – that he works for us. I believe he deserves liberty in November.
And I’m not moving.