YATES — The delay in assembling a public survey regarding the proposed Lighthouse Wind project , the arrival of a different survey and an online posting have confused and frustrated residents and officials in northwestern Orleans County.
A committee representing the Yates Town Council, Save Ontario Shores and Apex Clean Energy is still putting together a survey gauging support and opposition to locating a wind energy network with in the town, Supervisor John Belson said.
“(Councilman) Wes Bradley is working to put it together with S.O.S. and Apex, but it takes time,” Belson said following a town meeting Thursday. “We all want to do it as soon as possible.”
The survey, announced in August, has to be designed to the agreement of the town, which has taken a neutral stance on the project; S.O.S, which was formed in part to oppose it; and Apex, which is the developer for the planned 200-megawatt project in Somerset and Yates.
Town and county officials say they would not take action in support or opposition to the project before the results of the planned survey are received.
Citing the delays, S.O.S. has pushed forward with a non-binding survey they have mailed to every property owner in Yates.
“The need for information detailing the will of the citizens of the town of Yates is desperately needed in light of the delay in the survey planned by the Yates Town Board,” S.O.S. said in an announcement of their survey.
Roger Barth, S.O.S.’s executive vice president, said the survey is being handled by an impartial accounting firm. Lumsden & McCormick of Buffalo will open and tabulate the survey results — due by Oct. 16 — at a public meeting to be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at the White Birch Golf Club, 1515 N. Lyndonville Road.
Not all recipients feel it’s a fair judge of the townspeople’s views.
Donna Rae Bane found the survey to be unclear in both it’s origins and questions. Bane said she did not believe it was from the town, as it did not include the town’s mailing address, but could only assume it came from S.O.S.
Bane, who has signed a land lease with Apex for a potential wind turbine, said she won’t participate in the survey but wanted to bring the matter to the council’s attention.
“I didn’t like the questions,” Bane said. “They are tricky statements, there are some where whether you say yes or no, both could be considered a negative (opposing the project) response.”
According to S.O.S., the survey comes as a clear picture is emerging in comments at town meetings and postings to the Public Service Commission’s website, which can be viewed at tinyurl.com/yateswind.
In both cases, S.O.S. calculates that 87 percent of the comments have been in opposition to the project.
Among the comments that were posted to the PSC’s website was one in support of the project that Belson said was wrongly attributed to him.
“I did never submitted this comment nor did I authorize anyone to submit it on my behalf,” said Belson, who believes the submission is the result of comment cards available at public meetings.
His request to the commission for the comment to be removed was successful, but Belson said he will never know who did submit it.
“They found out it was from (a computer) in Chili, but can’t prove who did it,” Belson said. “I don’t want them to prosecute them, just to have it removed.”
Neither Belson, as supervisor, nor the town council have submitted a comment to the Public Service Commission. He is listed as one of ten parties to be contacted on the PSC’s Lighthouse Wind website, along with S.O.S., Apex and State DEC, Agriculture and Public Service officials.
Barth, the first name on the party list, expressed concerns Thursday over the last name on it — Orleans EDA CEO Jim Whipple.
Whipple is also an elected town councilman, and Barth said consideration is need due to his role in two entities that would benefit form the wind project — the town from revenues in a potential host agreement and the EDA from fees for managing a potential tax abatement agreement.
Barth said he’d like the town to seek clarification if Whipple’s two roles create a conflict of interest, or for Whipple to recuse himself from discussions of the project.