Residents on both sides of the “industry” vs. “rest” division have been
able to live alongside one another happily for years. There have been some rubs, of course, with farm equipment noise, hunters, ATVs, and
snowmobiles, but overall the town has been at peace. Enter UPC Wind with its proposal to add a massive industrial wind turbine project into
the mix, and we have a formula for social disaster that promises to benefit farmers at the expense of the 3-R owners that surround them.
Is this a winner-take-all fight? At Cohocton Free we believe there’s
still a path of compromise leaseholders and our Town leaders can pursue that will respect the wishes and preserve the rights of both
leaseholders, and other supporters believe that industrial wind power will
mitigate CO2 production, help global warming, benefit
local farmers, boost the local economy, and help support the town's tax base.
Many believe the wind tower/turbine units are attractive and will enhance the
local viewscape. Few believe there will be any problems with noise, bird/bat
kill, ice throw, fire hazard, insurance coverage, drop in property values, or
decommissioning. Most are in complete support of Local Law #2 of 2006 and feel
that the setbacks and provisions specified in this Law are sufficient to
safeguard the interests of local residents. This group generally trusts the
developer, current local officials, and the PILOT process and believes that
enough studying has already been done and that the community should get on with
approving and building the project, no matter what opposition may remain.
Local wind power
critics, many of whom are adjacent landowners, believe that the claims made by
the wind industry of potential CO2 mitigation and global
warming relief are grossly exaggerated and that the potential benefits to local
farmers are outweighed by negative effects on surrounding properties, the
community as a whole, and the environment. Most believe the wind tower/turbine
units will be an ugly blight that will seriously detract from the local
viewscape. Many believe there are significant unresolved problems with noise,
bird/bat kill, ice throw, fire hazard, insurance coverage, drop in property
values, and decommissioning. Most believe that Local Law #2 of 2006 has
inadequate setbacks and provisions to safeguard the interests of local
residents, especially adjacent landowners. This group tends to believe that
current local officials have been singularly unresponsive to their concerns,
that the PILOT process will enrich outside investors and SCIDA at the expense of
the local economy, that the developer and many leaseholders have monetary
self-interest as a primary motive, and that more study and discussion needs to
take place before any project of this magnitude can be approved. Many feel that
state-wide standards need to be established for wind power development in New York and/or
that the matter should be brought before the local electorate for a
It's taken us a
year to arrive at our respective positions, but the result is a deeply divided
community with very strong feelings on both sides. The process followed and
tactics used on either side have been viewed as deeply offensive by many of
those who disagree. Nerves are fraying and tempers flaring. Lawsuits are in the
court system with others waiting
in the wings, and next fall's electoral process has already begun. Opponents are
manning the gunboats while supporters cry, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed
sides can't be completely right, and sooner or later we will probably find out from our own
experience or the experience of others what the truth of these matters really
is. In the meantime, is there any room for discussion or compromise? This
chart lays out the possibilities.
How did we get
of the situation indicates that it's been a
simple case of poor hospitality, characterized by neglect of the fundamental
moral principle expressed by the Golden
Rule, from the very beginning. What do we mean by that?
most of whom are members of generational families in Cohocton, have had long discussions with the developer, many going back for several years,
about the overall project and its specifics. At first a Fenner-like project was
envisioned with perhaps 2 dozen GE 1.5 MW turbines, each about 328 feet
tall, scattered throughout the agricultural fields on Cohocton's hilltops. Town
leaders and a few trusted others were brought into the discussions, and plans to
amend our local zoning laws to allow the industrial use of agricultural land
were developed. All of this happened without informing or soliciting the input
of adjacent landowners. Fairly rapidly the plans grew from one project to at
least two with more than 4 dozen units, first 1.5 MW, then 2.0 MW, and now 2.5 MW
each and standing over 400 feet tall.
have been available at the Cohocton Wind office on Maple Avenue for over a year
that show leaseholders' boundaries, projected turbine sites, and neighboring
lands. During this time, leaseholders have given public testimony to the
willingness of the developer to adapt its plans to accommodate their wishes. Can
one single leaseholder come forward who can honestly say that he has sought out
the opinions of the neighbors who border on his land and given their concerns
equal weight with his own? Has any leaseholder approached the developer to ask
for changes in plans that would accommodate the wishes of adjacent landowners?
What we're seeing, instead of a community guided by the Golden Rule, is what
appears to be an established and relatively closed society of those "in the know"
who are looking out for their own interests vs. what is incorrectly perceived as a motley
group of unknown and relatively unwelcome newcomers.
To rephrase the
situation using a series of words that start with "c",
Golden Rule has led many to seek concealment,
conquest instead of pursuing
the higher goals of building individual character and genuine
fostering open communication, cooperation, and principled
What should we
Our proposal is
equally simple — we should all begin to apply the Golden Rule and see where it
takes us, with the following goals in mind:
We are appealing
to leaseholders to take the initiative to seek out the individual neighbors who
own land adjacent to theirs, get to know them on their own terms, and ask specifically if these neighbors have any
concerns about how the proposed project will affect them personally. After
looking over maps, measuring distances from proposed turbine units, discussing
probable sound transmission patterns, impacts on view, and other potential
concerns, leaseholders would then bring the requests and concerns of their
neighbors to the developer - as if the concerns were their very own - and ask
for specific mitigation.
Why are we
asking leaseholders to take the initiative? Because:
controversial wind project discussions started with them.
probably lived in the community longer than most of their neighbors.
constructive access to the developer.
Currently power is in their hands.
We are appealing to members of our
Town Board and Planning Board
to take their mandate to represent all of Cohocton's citizens very
seriously by stepping back from the brink, postponing a decision about turbine
site approval, and giving the negotiation and reconciliation process time to
develop. It would be helpful if our town leaders would then take the initiative
to create a neutral forum for community discussion and mutual decision making,
rather than continuously lobbying for the approval of a project that has been
highly controversial from the earliest days of its public unveiling last year.
We are appealing to Chris
Swartley, as the local spokesperson for UPC Wind, to take the
lessons of his advanced degree in Ethics to heart and advocate for a just and
equitable process that improves the social fabric of our community rather than
continuously stressing it to the point of rupture. This may result in a
significantly scaled-down but sustainable project, which would be a much better
outcome for all of us - including UPC - than forcing the adoption of one that has
already generated too much negativity, or what our global neighbors in the Far
East would call bad karma.
project size, UPC has just completed a wind installation on the Hawaiian island
of Maui using 20 GE 1.5 MW turbines with a total nameplate capacity of up to 30
MW. Their project at Mars Hill, Maine, that's attracted so much national
publicity for its noise problems and is described by the developer as "the
largest wind farm in New England" has only 28 GE 1.5 MW units for a total
nameplate capacity of up to 42 MW. There is no reason that UPC has to build two
projects in Cohocton with 52 Clipper 2.5 MW units that have a total nameplate
capacity of up to 130 MW. And compare the proposed Cohocton PILOT payments with
those being described in Mars Hill - they're virtually the same for a project
that's 3 times bigger! While he is reviewing the situation, we are asking Chris
to address the ethical implications of this disparity.
We are appealing to local wind critics
and adjacent landowners to tone down
any confrontational rhetoric, clearly define what their bottom-line concerns and
specific requests are, and be prepared to compromise for the overall well-being
of the community. What would be reasonable alterations in local zoning, and what
would be a reasonable process to establish these? How can we move forward within
the spirit and letter of Cohocton's current Comprehensive Zoning Plan or alter
it with the blessing of the electorate?
And we are appealing to the residents
of our Town as a whole to pull together to make Cohocton a truly welcoming
community, one that receives the newcomer, vacationer, retiree, and commuting
resident as valued members of a society of equals. As a united community, we can
make a difference in our entire region if we will only listen and follow the
prompting, timeless wisdom, and inner guidance that underlies the Golden Rule,
an ability that's available as a free gift to each and all of us.
neighbor as yourself"
to all of you to help in any way we can, for the future of our families, our
community, our region, and our nation.
God bless you!
P.O. Box 122, Beechner Road
Cohocton, NY 14826
Click here for a
printable PDF version of this Proposal.
Click here to
submit your personal comments for public review.
DEIS Comments submitted on June 5,
Sandor Fox, former Chairman of the Cohocton Planning Board. A copy of our June
2006 letter is available here.
SDEIS Comments submitted on February 14,
Raymond Schrader, Chairman of the Cohocton Planning Board.
A copy of our February 2007 letter is available here.