Shelby should have done more to inform public of turbine project
After reading the Shelby wind turbine piece in the Orleans Hub with Jeff Smith, I felt it important to respond to a couple of statements.
I’ve gone back and reviewed the notes for every town, planning and public meeting. By putting together a timeline, with context, it is easy to understand why people feel like this is being “shoved down their throats.”
The problem stems from four main issues.
1) Few people pay attention to the workings of their local government. Most of the issues that arise are of little interest unless you are personally impacted.
2) Limited means of effectively notifying the public. Typically, notifications rely on notices in the Batavia newspaper, the Pennysaver and on the town’s website. Unfortunately, we no longer have a Medina newspaper. There is a mailing, but it only goes to those people who own property within 500 feet of the Smith property.
3) The original application in November 2019 was for a 197-foot Meteorological Tower (MET) for the purpose of measuring wind speed. Not something most people would see or make note of.
4) COVID. As this progressed into 2020 public gatherings were highly discouraged and few of us ventured out.
The first public meeting for the MET permit was scheduled for June 9, 2020. According to the board minutes, notices were sent out late so no public hearing occurred. Instead at this town board meeting the town supervisor resigned and Jeff Smith was appointed as acting supervisor.
A new public meeting is scheduled for July 8. Due to the combined issues listed above, it is no surprise almost no one shows up and according to the minutes, there are no questions or comments.
The permit for the MET is issued at the July 14, 2020 meeting.
On September 14, 2021 Borrego submits an application two 633-foot turbines. The town hires MRB Group as engineering consultants, sends the application to the county board and the town takes lead agency in the SEQRA review process.
Nothing much happens until May 10, 2022 when Borrego makes a presentation to the Shelby board. They set a June 14, 2022 public meeting. Even though this is a much bigger deal than the MET, they use the same notification methods, meaning few in the community knew or understood what was being proposed.
It is a bit of surprise that as many people showed up for the June 14th meeting. It’s here you get a sense of how this seems to be getting rushed through, with virtually no input from the community. This led to the contentious meeting on September 13th and the frustration many feel.
The job of serving on a town board is pretty thankless, but very important. I, like many, have not been willing to put forth the time and effort it takes. No one at the last meeting was calling anyone “dumb” but these are highly complex issues and I am not sure they have been adequately served by the engineering consultants. But more thoughts on that in my next letter.