An Appeal The Problem Promises How to Help Wisdom




The Process

In April 2006, within a week of notifying the general public, UPC Wind submitted a complete 800+ page DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) to the Cohocton Town Planning Board for approval as part of an application for building permits under New York's SEQR process for evaluating wind farm proposals. A public comment period was announced, closing on June 9th, with one public hearing before the Planning Board scheduled on May 25th. The hearing was managed by a lawyer hired by the developer. According to rumor, all of the members of the Town Council and Town Planning Board have expressed their full support for the project prior to receiving any significant input from the general public. How could this have happened?

How Things Started

Back in 2002 and 2003 UPC Wind began looking into the possibility of undertaking a major wind power project in our area, first by contacting individual landowners with hilltop property and later by opening private conversations with public officials.

By 2004 when they had determined that there was sufficient interest and private commitment to go forward, they installed several towers on our highest hills to measure wind speed after undergoing a questionably complete permit process, and then began engineering and environmental studies with the goal of developing a concrete proposal. All of this investigation was done very quietly and privately. What little was heard by local citizens was primarily in the form of hazy rumors.

The Next Phase

Some time in late 2004 or early 2005 the developer began working with members of the Town Board to draft a special zoning variance or "Windmill Law" that would be favorable to the establishment of an industrial wind power plant on agriculturally zoned land. Later in 2005, the developer invited a number of Cohocton residents, primarily landowning families interested in leasing and Town officials, to take an expense-paid guided tour of a small wind farm in Fenner, NY. All of this occurred prior to last fall's Town elections, but none of it was publicized enough to allow it to become an election issue.

However, shortly after the election, members of the newly-inaugurated Town Board, already fully in favor of a project that the public had yet to hear about, met and passed a Windmill Law (#1) that catered to the interests of the developer to such a degree that it was challenged legally through the filing of an Article 78 complaint. The response of the Town Board, following the developer's legal counsel, has been to withdraw Windmill Law #1 and replace it with a more strongly worded version, known as Local (Windmill) Law #2.

Where We Are Now

Members of the community are scrambling to find out what's going on and how to respond constructively to what is happening. Citizens who have just heard about the situation are working through troubling emotions of anger, frustration and hurt, feeling left out of a decision-making process that could have significant potential impact on the enjoyment and use of their property. Many feel tricked and deceived. Against this backdrop stand those who've been "in the know" for years, courted by a persistent team, supported financially, armed with literature and sales responses, and backed up by a fully-staffed campaign sales office right beside the Post Office in downtown Cohocton. Meetings are being called, but our elected officials so far seem unwaveringly committed to pushing through the approval process, no matter what the general populace, Cohocton's electorate, may think. It looks like a legal showdown may be coming with UPC Wind's corporate lawyers waiting in the wings to do battle. 

Why can't we step back together and look at an alternative way of handling this situation, like the folks in Malone, NY did earlier this year?


* How does SEQR work?

According to its website (see link above) "New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making.

"This means these agencies must assess the environmental significance of all actions they have discretion to approve, fund or directly undertake. SEQR requires the agencies to balance the environmental impacts with social and economic factors when deciding to approve or undertake an 'Action'.

"If an action is determined not to have significant adverse environmental impacts, a determination of nonsignificance (Negative Declaration) is prepared. If an action is determined to have potentially significant adverse environmental impacts, an EIS or  'Environmental Impact Statement' is required.

"The SEQR process uses the EIS to examine ways to avoid or reduce adverse environmental impacts related to a proposed action. This includes an analysis of all reasonable alternatives to the action. The SEQR 'decision making process' encourages communication among government agencies, project sponsors and the general public (italics added)." 

The SEQR process starts with the public presentation of a DEIS or "Draft Environmental Impact Statement" which is supposed to inaugurate a time in which public officials and the citizens they represent discuss the pros and cons of the proposed action and come to a mutual decision about whether to proceed.

Are we following the spirit of the SEQR process here in Cohocton or just going through the legal motions?



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