Town of Andover Wind Turbine Public Hearing
The Andover Town Board held a public hearing Tuesday evening at 6pm on the subject of the Liberty Wind Farm affecting the towns of Andover, Independence, Willing, and Wellsville. The public hearing was remarkably well attended with approximately 50 members of the public in attendance with notable attendance by Allegany County Legislator Jim Rumfelt. The meeting was standing room only if you ignored that absolutely no one sat in the front row. Unfortunately, representatives from Liberty Power, the company soliciting leasing rights from area property owners, were unable to attend due to Covid. The last-minute cancellation was absolutely not possible to avoid (we assume). Town Supervisor Gus Weber who runs a pretty tight ship began the meeting promptly at 6pm. Gus kicked things off with the reading of a letter from Mona Meagher, an Andover resident and member of Citizens for Maintaining our Rural Environment, suggesting some changes to the town's proposed Wind Law including requirements for shadow flicker and sound levels. Supervisor Weber did mention that the proposed wind law was available for reading on the homepage of the town website. Town Supervisor Weber polled the attendees and over a dozen present had received lease offers from Liberty Power; however, none stated that they had signed any lease agreements. When questioned about the possibility of this wind farm becoming a reality in Andover Gus stated, "The power is really with the landowners here. If no one signs the leases, then there will be no windmills." Eminent domain has only been attempted three times for wind turbine projects in NY state, per County Legislator Rumfelt, and of those one was rejected and the other two he was not able to determine if the matter was settled. Gus went on to stress that the purpose of getting a wind law in place was to protect the town, residents, and landowners in the event that any wind turbines were built. Due to the NY State green initiatives the town cannot outright ban wind turbines, but they can place strict requirements on them. These requirements include things like how far away from residences they must be placed relative to the turbine height, decibel levels, shadow flicker, and decommissioning and maintenance requirements. Many landowners and residents voiced concerns from health issues related to wind turbines to concerns about property values and decommissioning. A petition against the wind farm was presented by a community member, and he encouraged all present to sign it. Additionally, a couple guys (we were later informed were Tony and Jerry Lojacono) who have a hunting property in Wellsville in the proposed wind farm area had a ton of things to say and submitted a list of suggested additions and revisions to the proposed law. The pair primarily advocated for the wind law to be as strict as possible so as to discourage the wind project from becoming a reality. They suggested the town pool resources with Independence to hire a lawyer specializing in environmental law to draft the town law. Gus stated that the board would take this into consideration.
Overall, the mood of the crowd seemed decidedly against the wind farm becoming a reality. Gus suggested that folks read the proposed law and reach out to him or other board members with any comments or suggestions. A member of the community did express that they did not feel information about the public hearing and proposed wind farm and wind law was made widely available. The board's response was that hearing notices were published in The Spectator as well as posted at the town post office, on the town website, and on the bulletin board, and they should look for further notices and information on the town website, www.TownofAndoverNY.com going forward. The public hearing was an hour and 20 minutes long, which is well over the acceptable threshold for meetings. So, unfortunately even though the meeting was informative it still receives a 0/10 due to length alone. Town Supervisor Weber did try to reign things in, but alas, he was unable to keep in under the hour mark.
Following the Public Hearing on the Liberty Wind Farm the regular Town Board meeting ensued without much fanfare. The wind law was tabled for a later vote in order to consider the community suggestions and commentary. The Town Dog Control Officer Lori Rumfelt submitted her resignation letter, which was accepted with regrets. Jim Rumfelt will be filling in until a new Dog Control Officer can be found and appointed. The Golden Agers club sent a thank you note for support over the years, but they were regretfully disbanding at this time. The report from the Highway Superintendent was brief with the main takeaway for me being that apparently a "10 wheeler" is a dump truck, which I was unaware of, and the town needs to buy a new one soon. As with most things these days they're expensive so Superintendent Frungillo is looking into what is possible. In the meantime, the highway crew is continuing work on ditch and brush work and winter road maintenance. Officer Rumfelt reported that the Andover Police department responded to 908 total incidents in the year of 2021 with 313 of those being in the town. The largest group of incidents was car-vs.-deer situations, but there was also a big uptick in mental health calls. Officer Rumfelt did also read a letter written to the police department (with name and HIPAA details redacted) thanking them for their response to a person's mental health crisis and crediting both Jim and Bryce with saving their life. Monica Dean gave the AHPC report and stated that the annual report had been submitted. She's hoping to get an extension on the grant as there is still some work that hasn't been completed due to supply chain issues that have been ongoing. Not related to that at all Deb Rossrucker was appointed to the Assessment Review Board. Following all the usual reports Gus Weber launched into the Resolution for 2022 organization of the board which was, honestly, a lot. It was basically a rapid-fire reading of the appointment of board members and roles and responsibilities. The town's official newspaper was changed from The Spectator to The Patriot for 2022. There was a brief discussion about starting a town Facebook page, but no decision was made. Steve Walker was reappointed Town Marriage Officer for another 3-year stint. So far, Steve has only performed 2 marriages and 2 vow renewals in the last 3 years, so he should really step up his game (that is not an official recommendation from the board, just a personal suggestion). The regular town board meeting was a solid 9/10. It lasted 39 minutes and covered quite a lot of ground as usual. All reports were organized and succinct. The town office was very cozy. I would definitely recommend attending a Town Board meeting in the future. © AndoverExclusive 2022