Hopkinton wind law fails to pass, would have been too restrictive for developer
By MATT LINDSEY
HOPKINTON — The wildcard councilmember in the wind law vote said she needs more time to address concerns and voted not to approve the wind law as proposed by the wind advisory board.
Councilwoman Sue Lyon voted no on the wind law at a meeting Monday night. “Because I think we need to give Avangrid a chance to sit down with the Hopkinton Town Board, do some discussion, with the wind advisory board and the lawyers,” Lyon said. She said discussions would not pertain to money, but would be about other concerns or questions she has.The law would have been too restrictive for Avangrid and likely would have put an end to the wind company’s plan for Hopkinton.
“In January, when I started on the board, I requested Avangrid to do a Q&A,” Pullano said in an email to North Country This Week. “They refused. Said they would accept emails.”
The proposed law called for setbacks of 2,500 feet from a property line of a non-participating landowner (more than five times the height of a tower), sound decibel limits of 40 dBA and no turbines south of SH 72.
Kelly Pullano made a motion for the law and Sue Wood seconded the motion following a brief pause.
“We’ve been discussing this now for almost two years…and we’ve heard from a lot of people on their feelings…some for, some against…we’ve had emotional meetings, I think it’s time that we move forward on this, we’ve had plenty of time to get our questions answered,” she said.
Wood then asked if anyone wanted to discuss the issue further. Lyon then told the board and audience she did not support the law.
“Such as, you’ve had two years,” Supervisor Wood said.
Lyon then brought up 220 signed petitions that ask for talks and discussions to continue before a vote is put forward.
“The Avangrid has said that if it does not go south of 72 they will walk,” Lyon said, noting that the wind company would not have enough space to erect their 27 planned turbines.
Even though she said her concerns were not tied to money, Lyon immediately began talking about town finances and how the money Avangrid is offering could help Hopkinton.
“Discuss different things on what their ideas are, if it doesn’t become a wind project is their any other options for money for our town and our community … obviously we need to find revenue to come into this town,” she said.
Lyon said the highway department is in need of supplies and upgrades, including a salt shed that was proposed for purchase five years ago.
“If that (salt shed) doesn’t happen we’re looking at probably some lawsuits with people getting salt in their drinking waters,” she added.
Lyon then went on to talk about more expenses for the town.
Pullano quickly reminded Lyon that she claimed it was not about money. Lyon then moved the conversation back to the postcards and opinions expressed in emails and letters to the editor to North Country This Week in support of the wind project.
“Do you not see that there is far more who are in favor of the wind law as written by the wind advisory board — I mean there is a much greater number of people who are asking us, the board, to vote this wind law in, compared to the leaseholders who don’t want the wind law voted in,” Pullano said.
Supervisor Wood then asked Lyon what changed her mind since the last work session, in which Lyon claimed to be in support of the wind law as written.
Lyon still thought the 220 people who submitted postcards opposing the wind law needed a voice.
“I’ve been thinking about driving around the town and seeing the properties that are down, what this could do for our town, what kind of revenue it could bring into the town,” Lyon said.
The conversation about town finances continued.
“At budget time we sat down and couldn’t even buy a lawnmower,” Lyon exclaimed.
“This is not about money,” Pullano refuted. “It can not be about money, it can not be about revenue.”
The four eligible board members then voted on the wind law. Gilbert Sochia abstained due to a conflict of interest, even though he claimed last month he was eligible to vote and planned to do so.
Sue Wood and Kelly Pullano voted in favor of the law and Steve Parker and Sue Lyon voted against the law.
After Parker and Lyon voted no a frustrated voice from the audience said, “That’s just great, you guys really covered us, thank you.”
“The motion is dead,” Wood said.
“Thanks for not protecting us … this is a joke,” the audience member yelled above other voices. “You two should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Wood then opened the floor up to the audience.
One audience member said it was appalling that board members would put money before people. “I can not believe the corruption on this board,” she said.
She was followed by audience member and leaseholder Frank Potenzano who wants to see the wind project move forward. He claimed that hospitals in towns where wind farms already exist should be flooded with people with health issues.
This was followed by arguing between audience members. Wood had to yell above the voices to regain order.
Other audience members expressed that board members are voted in to represent the people, and not their own personal opinions; that if the town board sits down with Avangrid that they need to include Fort Drum officials and others that will be impacted from around the state.
A young girl in the audience read a poem called, “Why Must We Fight?” which detailed the struggle between both sides over the wind turbines.
Another passionate audience member, Ernie Wood (Sue Wood’s husband), said the board members who voted against the wind law made a big mistake, reminding members that the salt shed and other needs have been known for years and years.
“You have let this wind board waste their friggin volunteer time, you have got to be ashamed of yourselves, if you’re not you’re sick,” Mr. Wood said. The crowd then erupted in cheer.
Following a couple more speakers Wood ended public comment session due to bickering in the audience.
“This meeting was shameful,” Pullano said in her email. “Sue Lyon stated that she could not pass the wind law because Avangrid could not move forward with the project if we passed the law. Who is she representing, the town or Avangrid?”
Pullano says the board has received an overwhelming majority of letters, emails and calls all requesting to pass the wind law with no turbines south of 72.
“Sue Lyon and Steven Parker pay no regard to them,: she said. “Nor the recommendations from nearby towns such as Belmont where the supervisor has clearly stated his feeling on setbacks and dBa levels. Sue Lyon And Steven Parker have one focus and it is not the taxpayers.”
“I am not sure of the next step yet,” Wood said in an email to NCTW.