Yates town supervisor secures narrow victory over challenger

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 September 2015 at 12:00 am

John Belson

YATES – John Belson, the Yates town supervisor for nearly four years, survived a Republican primary challenge from Jim Simon, a vocal opponent of a wind turbine project in Yates and Somerset.

Belson was ahead after voting on Thursday, 145-139. Belson distanced the lead by another vote after absentees were counted this morning, with Belson picking up 8 more votes and Simon gaining 7.

Belson said he has tried to stay neutral in the wind turbine project, waiting for Apex Wind Energy to submit official documents about the project.

“We’ve tried to stay on the middle ground and gather information,” Belson said after the absentees were counted. “We try to stand up for the whole community.”

Apex wants to build 60 to 68 wind turbines that would peak at 570 feet. Most of them would be in Somerset but some would be in northern part of Yates on the western side of the town, according to the proposal.

Save Ontario Shores, a grass-roots group opposed to the project, backed Simon for the election. The group wants to see Yates officials be more aggressive in rejecting the plan.

Save Ontario Shores points to Somerset, where the Town Board passed an official resolution to oppose the project following a survey of town residents that showed overwhelming opposition to the large turbines near the lakeshore. Somerset also has hired an attorney to fight the project.

Yates is now forming a committee to have a survey. That will include a Town Board member, Wes Bradley, and at least a representative from Apex and Save Ontario Shores.

“It’s been very controversial and we’ve been thrown into the middle of it,” Belson said about the turbine project.

Meanwhile, Belson and the Yates Town Board have other town business. They are working on the 2016 town budget and a plan for a shared assessor among Yates, Ridgeway and Shelby, Belson said.