Shelby officials rely too much on developer for data with turbine project
The Orleans Hub ran an article on September 23, 2022, featuring Town of Shelby Supervisor Jeff Smith and Deputy Supervisor Ryan Wilkins discussing the “benefits” of two giant wind turbines proposed for Smith’s land on the outskirts of the historic village of Medina.
These turbines would stand 633 feet and are the biggest in New York State. Taller than the St. Louis Arch. Taller than the Washington Monument. Unfortunately, the article included many inaccuracies and omissions we wish to address. As members of the Shelby and Medina communities, we are writing to shed light on some of these issues.
This Tuesday, October 4, at 6 p.m., there is a budget meeting at 4062 Salt Works Road, followed by the Town Board’s work session immediately after and, reportedly, a Planning Board meeting at 7 p.m. Both are likely to address the wind turbines and related issues. Please come to this meeting and future meetings and speak up. Let the Shelby elected and appointed officials know that you, too, insist on transparency, objectivity, and ethics.
We ask the Shelby Town Board to issue a year-long minimum moratorium on any Industrial Wind Turbine vote. This moratorium must include the as-yet-unfinished SEQR document filled with discrepancies and inaccuracies at the Sept. 14 meeting.
We ask the Shelby Town Board and all appointed officials to listen more closely and be transparent with their constituents.
We ask the board to conduct a community-wide survey and hold additional and better publicized public hearings. The June 14, 2022 public hearing was a small advertisement in the Pennysaver on June 5th, one week before the meeting. While they met the legal minimum for notification, nothing prevents them from publicizing the meeting in other formats to reach more community members—for example, they could have utilized the Orleans Hub, the most widely read online periodical in the town. At the June public meeting, Deputy Supervisor Ryan Wilkins reassured us that “Borrego would be responding to questions in writing and wouldn’t give answers during the public hearing” (June 15, 2022, Orleans Hub).
Some of us wrote to Borrego after the hearing. They never wrote back. Sending us to the wind turbine company for answers to our questions is the opposite of transparent. Did the company even tell the Board about our emails, about any of our concerns? Why were we not directed to our own Town Board with our questions?
We ask the Shelby Town Board to insist on ethical decisions and issues involving conflicts of interest. Supervisor Smith may have recused himself from public discussions and voting on actions before the Board relating to the wind turbines on his property. However, as a public officer, he is placed in a position of public trust. It is his responsibility to ensure public resources are used in the best interest of the public. The interest of the municipality and its constituents must come before his own personal interest.
As for other issues of concern: In the September 23, 2022 article, Mr. Ryan Wilkins, Deputy Supervisor, stated that they “wanted to use the numbers approved by Barre as a starting point for the discussion” and that “there are no numbers yet.” Mr. Wilkin’s statement is not factual.
According to the minutes of the Shelby Town Board meeting on May 10, 2022 (minutes linked here), “[T]he town will receive a Community Host Agreement, approximately $200,000 per wind turbine for a total of $400,000.” In addition, the “town gets a $200,000 onetime payment or spread over time 15 years per turbine.” Numbers were clearly discussed.
Please take note of this excerpt from those same minutes: “Borrego covering all legal fees, so it lets the town off the hook. An escrow has been set up. Borrego pays all the fees and has set up escrow.” “Unforeseen legal snags will be completely covered.” While in no way should the Town of Shelby taxpayer funds be used to push this project forward through “snags,” – is this a conflict? And, off the hook for what, exactly? What legal issues do they imagine the town is likely to face?
At the most recent Sept. 14 contentious board meeting, approval of the SEQR was on the agenda. A representative from the engineering firm reviewed, line by line, the “Full Environmental Assessment Form: Part 3” or “Evaluation of Project Impacts and Determination of Significance” with Town Board members. Each board member was allowed to agree or disagree. Please watch that board meeting here to hear this process.
When asked where he got his data, the engineer responded, “Borrego.”
Borrego? Yes, Borrego is the same company that proposed the turbines on Supervisor Smith’s property, and they are the ones providing the research to the engineer studying its safety. Borrego is the company that profits from this project. Borrego is influencing the engineer hired by the Town of Shelby to assist in the review/approval of this project.
In the Hub’s article on September 23, Mr. Smith stated that he “took issue with speakers who implied the board was ‘too dumb’ and wasn’t qualified to review the environmental impacts of the project.” And he continued, “They have an engineer and land use attorney to assist the town in reviewing the projects.” Both statements are disingenuous at best, especially when we look more closely at Borrego’s influence.
Those who spoke at the Sept. 14 Town Board meeting spoke against installing the turbines at the specified location. We asked for a moratorium on a vote. We asked for the opportunity for people to become informed and share their thoughts.
Why is this not up for a referendum in Medina or Orleans County? Does everyone understand the height of these turbines and their proximity to many homes and businesses? Do they know the effects on the wildlife, such as the fact that our region is the country’s second-largest migratory bird path in the country? Do they know the impact of shadow flicker?
We ask our fellow community members to be present, witness, and speak before and after public meetings and work sessions. Let them know you are watching. You are listening. And you are involved. We hope to see you Tuesday, October 4th, at 6 pm and 7 pm, at the budget hearing, the work session, and the planning board meeting. We hope to see you on October 11th at 7 p.m. for the regular Shelby Town Board Meeting.
Ric and Karen Jones
Brian and Debbie McCarty