ZBA rules for Reunion "met" tower

By Patsy Nicosia

After reviewing a 30-minute DVD of a presentation by Schoharie Valley Watch from its July 1 meeting—filmed and loaned by SVW—Richmondville’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted Tuesday to extend Reunion Power’s permit for a meteorological tower on the David Huse farm to May 2009.
“Knowledge is power,” Mr. Huse said afterwards in a low-key reaction to the ruling, which had it been against extending the permit, could have meant an end to Reunion’s plans for an industrial wind turbine project on Warnerville Hill and in nearby Fulton.
Don Airey, SVW co-director, said he wasn’t surprised by the ZBA’s decision.
“They went along with the County Planning Commission,” which recommended the permit be extended. “It was pretty much a foregone conclusion,” he said.
Now, SVW, which issued what Mr. Airey considered a conciliatory gesture and Reunion’s Sandy Gorton called a threat not to sue for the tower’s immediate removal should the permit not be renewed at the July 1 meeting, has said it’s considering suing the Town of Richmondville in State Supreme Court.
At issue Tuesday was whether Reunion had demonstrated the need for another year of data and whether the Vermont-based company had demonstrated proof of hardship.
The ZBA first considered the questions at its July 1 meeting, but because two of its members were missing and didn’t hear SVW’s arguments against the extension, they took the question up again Tuesday and then voted unanimously to extend the permit for the 197-foot ‘met’ tower issued by Code Enforcement Officer Gene DeMarco more than a year ago.
Bruce Loveys, ZBA chair, was the only one to explain his vote.
“We don’t feel the zoning law is compromised [by the tower],” Mr. Loveys said.
“The whole question of whether its an observation tower or not is very subtle. It’s collecting data. It can’t be a project and it won’t be a project if there’s not enough wind to support there being a project—and that’s a possibility.”
Mr. Loveys pointed out Richmondville’s zoning code was written in 2001, well before wind project’s like Reunion’s were being discussed and more “science fiction” than reality.
“I’d say the Zoning Rewrite Committee and the town board better get busy with definitions because they are here now,” he said.
SVW had argued that Reunion, which had originally said a year’s worth of data would be enough, couldn’t impose its own hardship—a question Mr. Loveys called equally subtle.
“The letters of support Reunion offered [arguing two years of data collection was more typical] are enough,” he said. “They may be from acquaintances, but that doesn’t negate that these are experts.”
SVW had argued the letters presented by Reunion in support of the extension were in reality from “buddies.”
In addition to Mr. Loveys, ZBA members are Lisa Crapser, Liz Meigel, Allison Coons, and Kathy Danielsen.

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