I have seen a pattern emerging in the county and across our towns during local elections. Election interference, officials wielding influence to discriminate against those who do not favor the candidates they prefer and more one-note candidates running for office for the sole purpose of opposing projects, over-regulating taxpayers and restricting citizens’ property rights.
Like those of us in Shelby, our neighbors in Barre, Yates and even Somerset in Niagara County are suffering at the hands of individual candidates and special interest groups backed by lobbyists and big-city law firms making a mint sucking the life and hope out of our rural towns.
Their goal is to ban everything, ban it all and not look back – no new business or industry (unless it’s a farm stand, storefront or manufacturing), no telecom towers to give us better phone reception and no tall structures of any kind. They implement unjustifiable setbacks or acreage restrictions that make other uses prohibitive so there can be no widespread tax relief for our communities as a whole – and less potential for individual landowners to secure telecom or commercial energy leases to offset their own taxes.
These new candidates and officials running for re-election are bent on banning or unreasonably restricting growth and development here. In doing so, they are restricting our freedoms and the right to use and enjoy our property. They’re also setting the county back decades.
Our neighbors in Yates were subjected to similar legislative restrictions developed by the special counsel who mapped out Shelby’s restrictive zoning laws. These laws robbed many of us of technological advances, telecom towers and over 20 land uses. The lawyer and his firm really know how to cash in on taxpayer dollars, creating administrative and procedural chaos, unnecessary delays and obfuscating the facts in a legal proceeding which typically takes under 12 months to resolve – we’re going on 22.
More alarming to see was Yates now using the law firm that represents the Town of Somerset. Taxes in Somerset went up 150 percent as a result of legal fees incurred to oppose a windmill project. It practically took a citizens’ revolt in Yates to reverse the vote to split legal fees with Somerset “50/50” when the majority of the turbines were to be located in Somerset. It’s not rocket science but the “antis” in the majority couldn’t rework the math on one issue one vote for the good of all their constituents.
When Somerset taxpayers requested public documents under Freedom of Information law what they received was chock full of improper redactions. The redactions could have been challenged in court, but at the time residents did not know their rights. The same thing happened to us and other landowners in Shelby. It’s an abuse of power when our tax dollars pay for elected officials to work hand in glove with lawyers to conceal information that should be made available to the public.
One of those attorneys also represents a special interest group in Barre opposing another renewable energy project. The attorney reps Clear Skies Above Barre, a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation that receives intervener funding from the state for the Article 10 process.
Clear Skies’ president is also running for Barre’s Town council on the “Citizens for Change” line. The “Citizens for Change” ticket includes three anti-wind candidates that Clear Skies publicly supports. All three candidates are pictured together online and in ads, including a large outdoor billboard which leases for thousands. For a non-profit group that gets funds from the state, Clear Skies Above Barre is actively electioneering.
This is no small thing. Special interest groups and some of the same legal consultants worked to get “anti” candidates elected in Orleans County before. A multi-year review showed registration patterns equivalent to rigging.
I’m not supporting people running for office just to oppose a project and over-regulate me, my neighbors and other landowners. Candidates should have a platform more substantial than angrily opposing something. They should have progressive ideas and show regard for our tax dollars and not deliberately disregard potential tax relief for every property owner. Orleans County is losing population. There’s little hope for revitalization with a huge digital divide and deluge of regulations sure to deter future investment.
Whether or not you support or oppose renewable energy, mining, telecom, or the other banned and heavily regulated uses around here, everyone should support a person’s right to use and enjoy their property. Something will eventually have to be located on somebody’s land, maybe near your house, or right in your view in order for our towns to survive.
Those of us fighting for our property rights in one way or another should stand together on this. My family, neighbors and I will continue the fight in the courts and at the ballot box to regain our property rights, constitutional rights and the modern conveniences we have been deprived of. And we’ll show up every Election Day to support uncompromised candidates with open minds who run a fair and honest race and will work to advance us all. I hope you will too.
Zelazny Family Enterprises