Thursday, August 21, 2008

Richmondville Blew It

In a recent editorial, the Times-Journal criticized the anti-wind power group Schoharie Valley Watch for the tone of its attacks on Reunion Power and Richmondville Town officials. The Times-Journal had harsh words for SVW, calling the group “venomous”, “bitter”, and accusing the group of engaging in “slash and burn style” politics.

I believe that wind power is a critical resource, and we must exploit it to our best advantage. But when it comes to SVW’s criticism of town officials, you have to admit, they have a point. Over the past year, the town of Richmondville has given its critics (some of whom may be inflexible NIMBYs) more than enough ammunition. The secrecy, the stonewalling, the conflicts of interest on the zoning rewrite board, the firing of Kathleen Johnson; much of SVW criticism has indeed been over the top, but Richmondville officials have done more than enough to warrant it. There may not be anything wrong with any of this, but it has created an appearance of impropriety that anti-wind activists have seized on. SVW are gadflies and the way you handle gadflies is by absorbing their energies, co-opting them and challenging them to buy in rather than storm out. The last thing you do is hand them ammunition on a silver platter.

The real tragedy is that Richmondville could have had a meaningful discussion about how to make a contribution to alternative energy. Maybe Reunion could have sold wind-generated electricity to Richmondville Power and Light (I still would like to see that happen). But town officials have bungled this opportunity and played right into the hands of SVW and the NIMBYs.

SVW will complain, they will attack town officials, and they will probably file suit against the town. In the end, they will probably succeed in stopping Reunion Power. Though I supported the idea of a wind farm from the beginning, I feel no sense of loss at this inevitable result. If Reunion Power doesn’t build here, they will likely build somewhere else. The urgent need for renewable energy sources is simply too great. There’s plenty of wind in this state. Let the NIMBYs have their mountain.


Anonymous said...

what conflicts on the zoning board?

Anonymous said...

Well let's see...Betsy Bernocco on the Planning Board. The same woman who has acted as an advocate for Reunion Power and has expressed her dislike and dismay over the "complexity" of the SEQRA process for which her board would be lead agency. And don't forget how much she detests public input. Harold Loder the CHAIRMAN of the Planning Board who along with his son Matt and their partner Alton Makley (Country Boy Reality)are the largest developers, speculators and real estate marketers in the County (as well as the County's largest landowners). He's the guy that insisted that the Comprehensive Plan would "never see the light of day" and helped push through his son's subdivision (one of many) that the State called improper for ignoring the environmental review process. The best is David Huse being appointed to the Zoning Rewrite Committee while holding 700 acres and a lease with Reunion Power for wind turbines on the very same high ridges that the Comprehensive Plan recommends to be protected by sensitive overlay districts. Mr. Huse you may recall was also on the Comprehensive Plan Committee but only attended a couple of meetings saying he didn't like the idea of zoning and was opposed to the Comprehensive Plan. Let's also mention Dennis Handy the appointed member of the Town Board who will vote for a wind law after stating on the record that he wants wind turbines on HIS land. IF you look up "conflict of interest" in the dictionary you will see a picture of Richmondville.

Anonymous said...

How can it be a conflict if Betsy, Harold and Dennis are not getting windmills, and the Zoning Rewrite Committe has nothing to do with writing the Wind Energy Law.

Sean said...

Don't call it a conflict of interest then. Either way, both Huse and Loder are in positions to benefit from their activities in the town.

What's so wrong with the idea of finding people to serve on planning boards and zoning re-write committees who don't have some financial stake in those boards' decisions?

But lay off Richmondville, it seems to be a common pattern throughout Schoharie County.

Nadeau is a developer and is Chair of the town of Cobleskill's planning board. What about Mark Galasso, who was chair of the Cobleskill village planning board for a long time?

You've touched on an issue that's a lot bigger than Richmondville's wind turbine controversy. This is a long-standing pattern of local developers and bigshots having entrenched themselves in local government to help pad their own wallets.

Disgusting? Yes. But shocking? Unfortunately, no.