Yates survey shows 66 percent oppose wind project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Wes Bradley, a Yates town councilman, discusses a town-wide survey on a proposed wind project. There were 1,187 respondents and two thirds said they opposed Lighthouse Wind. Brad Bentley is next to Bradley during this morning’s Town Board meeting.

YATES – The survey results are in and about two thirds of the 1,187 respondents said they oppose the proposed Lighthouse Wind project by Apex Clean Energy.

That company has submitted a preliminary scoping document to the state Public Service Commission. The company says it wants to build up to 71 large-scale wind turbines in Yates and Somerset.

Yates residents, in a survey mailed just before Thanksgiving, were asked 10 questions, including, “Based on your knowledge of Lighthouse Wind, are you in favor of or opposed to this project at this time?”

There were 770 respondents or 65.59 percent who said they oppose it, 353 or 30.07 percent who support it, and 51 or 4.34 with no opinion.

The survey was mailed to 2,608 registered and non-registered voters. The 1,187 returns represents a 46.57 percent participation rate, which town officials this morning said they were pleased with.

The results will be submitted to the state Public Service Commission. Wes Bradley, a Yates town councilman, worked on the survey with a representative from both Apex Clean Energy and Save Ontario Shores, a citizens group opposed to Lighthouse Wind.

The results are similar to a town-wide survey in Somerset in June. Somerset town officials mailed about 1,100 surveys and 644, or nearly 60 percent were returned.

The Somerset survey showed 61 percent “strongly oppose” the project while 17 percent “strongly support” it. Another 6 percent said they “moderately oppose” it while 12 percent “moderately support” the project.

Save Ontario Shores also did a survey in October, sending out 1,235 to Yates property owners with 421 surveys returned. Of the respondents, 77.9 percent of Yates property owners say they oppose the project.

The percentage of opposition fell by nearly 12 percent in the Yates town survey. Taylor Quarles, the project manager for Apex, said there is growing support for the project in the community.

The company will work to address residents’ and community concerns about the project, and will offer more specifics about size and location of the turbines in the next document on environmental impacts, Quarles said. The preliminary scoping document is intended to identify concerns that need further study, he said.

The Public Service Commission set a Jan. 12 deadline for comments on the preliminary scoping document. Dan Spitzer, an attorney for the town, said the review is a “process” with input from the town and community. There will also be opportunities to comment on the Apex application if the company proceeds after the preliminary stage.

Quarles said Apex would like to submit the next stage of the application in the summer, and then work with the community and state officials to address any concerns with the turbines.

Jim Simon, the town supervisor-elect, said the town survey is additional validation of strong opposition from residents to the project. He said Apex should not proceed with the effort given the limited support.

Here are the 10 questions residents were asked to answer on the survey and their responses:

1) Many topics are currently being studied regarding Lighthouse Wind. These proposed wind turbines would change the appearance of the landscape within the town. Do you have a concern about this?

Yes – 793 (66.92%), No – 365 (30.80%), No Opinion – 27 (2.28%)

2) As currently proposed, the electricity from this project would be delivered into the New York State electrical grid. Should the Town of Yates attempt to negotiate a separate agreement with electric suppliers for more favorable rates?
Yes – 840 (74.53%), No – 133 (11.80%), No Opinion – 154 (13.66%)

3) If Apex eventually seeks a PILOT (Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) from COIDA (County of Orleans Industrial Development Agency), should this be granted?

Yes- 307 (26.84%), No – 654 (57.17%), No Opinion – 183 (16.00%)

4) In 2015, the Town of Yates tax levy was $852,205. What percentage of decrease in the Town of Yates tax levy would you like to see come from this project? Circle one answer.

0% – 94 (8.39%), 25% – 164 (14.63%), 50% – 239 (21.32%), 75% – 90 (8.03%), 100% – 369 (32.92%), No Opinion – 165 (14.72%)

5) What effect do you feel wind turbines would have on property values in the Town of Yates?

Increase – 81 (7.00%), Decrease – 807 (69.75%), No Change – 269 (23.25%)

6) Taking into consideration requirements of the Article 10 review process, do you feel the study of health issues is important?

Yes – 909 (77.69%), No – 208 (17.78%), No Opinion – 53 (4.53%)

7) Taking into consideration requirements of the Article 10 review process, do you feel the study of wildlife issues is important?

Yes – 891 (76.02%), No – 247 (21.08%), No Opinion – 34 (2.90%)

8) Taking into consideration requirements of the Article 10 review process, do you feel the study of possible effects on the operations at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is important?

Yes – 822 (70.26%), No – 260 (22.22 %), No Opinion – 88 (7.52%)

9) Do you feel New York State’s “Reforming Energy Vision” is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Yes – 350 (30.54%), No – 516 (45.03%), No Opinion – 280 (24.43%)

10) Based on your knowledge of Lighthouse Wind, are you in favor or opposed to this project at this time?

Favor – 353 (30.07%), Oppose – 770 (65.59%), No Opinion – 51 (4.34%)