Judge dismisses Italy wind lawsuit

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Yates County Supreme Court Judge W. Patrick Falvey dismissed a petition challenging the Town of Italy’s wind farm regulation just days after the town board denied an application to build a wind farm with 17 industrial wind turbines.

The Finger Lakes Preservation Association, a group of Italy residents, had filed the lawsuit against the Italy Town Board and the wind farm developer Ecogen in June. They argued that the town was taking financial incentives from the developer to offset unacceptable environmental effects allowed under the town’s local law.

However, Falvey found the town acted properly in balancing economic benefits against adverse impacts as it understood them at the time.

Last week, the town board voted to deny Ecogen’s application for special use permits to begin construction of the wind farm.

Gary A. Abraham, attorney for the Finger Lakes Preservation Association, released a statement last week saying the town board’s denial was in agreement with comments submitted by FLPA that environmental impacts would be unacceptable.

“This turn of events was anticipated in Judge Falvey’s decision,” wrote Abraham, an environmental attorney who brought the case for FLPA.

“The judge said consideration of a wind farm application is separate from the action of adopting the wind farm law.” he wrote.

“We still believe the science shows a 50 decibel limit on wind turbine noise is too high,” FLPA member Vince Johnson said, adding, “But now that the town board agrees, Judge Falvey’s decision seems less important.”

Michael Herzog, another FLPA member agreed. “This is how democracy is supposed to work: the town board invited comments. We submitted technical information on the acoustics of wind turbine noise and the board came to see the noise issue in a new light.”

The town board has scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 27 to consider a six month moratorium on wind projects. Herzog commented, “Once the town adopts the moratorium, Ecogen will know that FLPA and the town board are on the same page.”

In related industrial wind farm news, the Yates County Planner Shawna Bonshak said the Yates County planning Board will continue to address the issue of wind turbines and alternative energy sources and their inter-municipal and county-wide affects.

The planning board had received the Ecogen application for review just days before the Italy Town Board denied the action. The Yates?County Planning Board acts in an advisory capacity only, but took no action on the application in September, saying it needed more time to learn about the issue.

Other Yates County towns, such as Benton and Jerusalem, are at various stages of learning about industrial wind farm development. 

Some residents in Benton have already signed agreements with wind companies.  "I have nothing against wind farms, says Benton Supervisor Bob Clark, adding, “But one of my main concerns is for the protection of non-participant landowners. We really have to be concerned with them in regards to noise and safety.”

I don't know if it will happen, said Clark,  “but we will continue to look at wind farms.”