Photo by Tom Rivers: Town Supervisor Sean Pogue, right, leads the Town Board meeting on Wednesday evening at the Barre Town Hall. Tom McCabe, left, is a Barre town councilman.
BARRE – The Town Board voted 4-0 on Wednesday to allow two meteorological towers for Apex Clean Energy, despite requests from some residents to take more time to consider the issue before voting.
Town Supervisor Sean Pogue joined Town Board members Richard Bennett, Tom McCabe and Lynn Hill in approving a special use permit for the two met towers. Town Councilman Larry Gaylard abstained due to a conflict of interest.
Pogue asked the board members how many were ready to vote at the meeting, and they were all affirmative, except for Gaylard who didn’t participate in the discussion.
“We got to make a decision,” Bennett said. “We’re not going to make everybody happy.”
The board held a public hearing on the met towers last week. Apex is seeking special use permits to have a 262.5-foot-high met tower at 5140 Angevine Rd., on land owned by Jon and James Peglow, and a 196-foot-high tower on Root Road, on land owned by Richard Miller.
Apex is the developer of the proposed Heritage Wind, which would include 47 much-larger wind turbines. Pogue, the town supervisor, said the turbine project would be dealt with through the Article 10 process, with a state siting board having the final say.
Pogue urged the residents who attended Wednesday’s meeting to focus on the met towers, and not the potential larger turbine project.
Resident MaryAnn Donnelly told the board she worries the met towers will lead to the wind towers. She asked the board to consider “environmental justice” with the turbines, how she said a few landowners with leases stand to gain far more the other town residents.
“Look at the bigger picture for people who will not profit from this but will see a loss of their property values,” she said.
Pogue said he wouldn’t support a project that favors only a few.
“As I’ve said before I want every taxpayer to benefit in the town,” Pogue said.
Apex has an existing met tower on Thorpe Road and wants the two additional towers to determine the wind strength and consistency, and discover other data that could be useful in possibly siting a project.
Kerri Richardson, president of Clear Skies Above Barre, asked the board to delay a vote on the met towers until an environmental impact study could be done, especially for the tower on Root Road which she said is in a sensitive area near wetlands, ponds and the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.
Richardson said the met towers with their guy-wires have been destructive to birds, bats and other wildlife.
“I just ask that diligence be done,” she said.
Resident John Metzler said he was concerned that some Barre town officials with ties to Apex were not abstaining and being impartial as the company courts the town.
Metzler quoted the April 11 Town Board minutes where the board identified the following officials as “conflicted” with Apex: Larry Gaylord on the Town Board; Planning Board members Jean Peglow, Paul Gillette and Kirk Mathes; and Richard Miller on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Those officials are not to vote on any applications from Apex, or lobby on behalf of the company, according to the minutes.
Metzler wanted the town to investigate whether those officials have abstained and refrained from lobbying to advance the Apex project.
“I am asking for a cooling-off period to determine conflicts of interest,” he said.
The Town Board should also consider if family members of the town officials stand to gain from the Apex project, Metzler said.
He asked the board members if they have conflicts of interest with Apex. McCabe said he was approached about signing a lease but did not. Hill doesn’t have enough land so he wasn’t considered. Bennett and Pogue both live near Pine Hill Airport in a buffer zone where there won’t be any turbines under consideration.
Bennett said he would have signed a lease if his property was out of the buffer zone. He said he supports the project for the town.
Mathes presented a letter from a local ATV club, signed by nine board members, stating their support for landowners’ rights to lease land to Apex.
That prompted Metzler to say Mathes should either be removed from the Planning Board or be fined for violating the town’s ethics code for officials. Mathes was identified as having a conflict of interest because he has a lease with Apex.
“I ask for your resignation,” Metzler told Mathes, who responded, “No.”
George McKenna asked the board to hold off on the met tower vote until a survey could be taken of the town, to get a sense if the town supports the Apex project.
“I don’t think there is a rush on,” McKenna said. “I think we should slow down because this is a lifetime decision.”
Pogue said a survey is being developed and should be available soon with results to be tabulated in late July.
The survey will likely be mailed to residents, and also be available on the town website, at the Hoag Library and the Barre Town Hall, Pogue said.
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