Yates Town Board officially opposes Lighthouse Wind

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Yates Town Supervisor Jim Simon has been a vocal critic of the Lighthouse Wind project for Yates and Somerset. Simon voted for a resolution officially opposing the project at today’s Yates Town Board meeting.

YATES – The Yates Town Board with new leadership in Town Supervisor James Simon cast a unanimous vote tonight in opposition to Lighthouse Wind, a proposal by Apex Clean Energy for up to 71 wind turbines in Yates and Somerset.

The Town Board’s decision follows similar actions by the Somerset Town Board, Niagara County Legislature and Orleans County Legislature. State Sen. Rob Ortt and Congressman Chris Collins have also been public with their concerns about the project, notably their view the turbines that could peak at up to 620 feet high would jeopardize air missions from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

The Orleans County Legislature opposed the project last month, citing the shift from local control or “home rule” in deciding the fate of Lighthouse Wind. That decision rests with a siting board where five out of seven members are state officials.

The Yates Town Board was critical of the new Article 10 process, taking away home rule. The Town Board had other reasons for its opposition. Here are some of the stated reasons in the official board resolution:

The large-scale turbines do not comply with the town’s comprehensive plan;

The project will create significant negative visual impacts from aesthetic points in the community and region, including but not limited to the Lake Ontario Shoreline, 30 Mile Lighthouse, and state and local parks;

The location of residences and land designated for residential development is inconsistent with the development of utility-scale wind turbines in town;

Many of the residents at the meeting, including Agnes LaPorte of Somerset, front left, applauded in support of the board’s resolution.

There are significant resources in adjoining towns that would be harmed by the construction of utility-scale wind turbines in Yates;

Available information indicates that noise impacts in the current rural area – based on World Health Organization standards – would negatively impact the health and quality of life of residents;

The local economy has shown great recent strength in agricultural-based manufacturing that would be impaired by the loss of productive farmland;

The placement of the STAMP (Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) in nearby Alabama (Genesee County) demonstrates the attractiveness of the area to employers who create far greater job growth and require less public support;

There are areas of significant residential and recreational activity that would be impaired by the turbines’ noise, visual impact and other hazards, including shadow flicker, ice shedding and blade throw;

Large-scale, multiple-tower wind energy facilities may present risks to the property values of adjoining property owners not part of the project;

Significant avian flyways and habitats may be negatively impacted;

Bat populations, as documented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, may be unable to sustain losses typical of such projects;

Taylor Quarles, development manager for Lighthouse Wind, said Apex Clean Energy will keep working on the project, working to address concerns from the community.

There are significant wetland and other surface resources that would be negatively impacted by the large scale modification required for the project.

After the resolution, most of the 50-plus people at the meeting broke into sustained applause.

“I feel now we’re pulling all in the same direction,” resident Roger Barth told the board.

The board vote was unanimous. One board member, Brad Bentley, didn’t attend the meeting.

John Riggi was elected to the board in November and campaigned strongly against the turbine project.

“This resolution was a long time coming,” Riggi said.

He said a survey by the town was helpful in building board support against the project. The Town Board on Dec. 28 announced the results of a town-wide survey about the turbine project. There were 1,187 respondents and 770 or 65.59 percent said they oppose it, 353 or 30.07 percent said they support it, and 51 or 4.34 percent with no opinion.

“The survey opened a lot of eyes,” Riggi said at the Town Board meeting.

Wes Bradley said the survey results showing strong community opposition to the project convinced him to vote for the resolution against Lighthouse Wind.

Taylor Quarles, the development manager for Lighthouse Wind, told the group that Apex remains committed to the project and will be working the next month to address concerns raised in the preliminary scoping statement for the project.

The town will work to submit a final application this summer that Quarles said would be open for comment for a year.

“We’re already hard at work working on our responses,” Quarles said.