By MATT LINDSEY
HOPKINTON -- Voters in Hopkinton were left to wonder where some of their representatives stand on the proposed wind farm following a spirited town council meeting last night.
Hopkinton town council candidate Janice Pease, who is also a member of the Concerned Citizens for Rural Preservation (CCRP), who are opposed to the Avangrid project, asked members of the town council their positions on wind-related issues at the Oct. 16 meeting.
But few answers along those lines were forthcoming.
The seats of council members Greg Crump and Gilbert Sochia are up for election this year and anti-wind residents Pease and Kelly Pullano are running for those seats in this year’s election.
Sochia has abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest because a close member of his family has a lease with the wind company. Crump had abstained from voting for a period of time after questions about his employer allegedly having a lease with Avangrid were brought up. It was decided that Crump is able to vote and was not in violation of any ethics codes.
Two council members answered questions from Pease and two members said they were not willing to answer questions at this time. Town Supervisor Sue Wood left the meeting early for a family emergency. Prior to leaving the meeting Wood stated that she was not in favor of the project as it stands.
“When this began I said I would stick by what residents want,” she said in a phone interview this morning, noting that a survey showed that more than half of the residents were opposed to the project.
Wood said she based her opinion on her visits to two wind farms as well as literature she has read.
She and other members of the board plan to visit another, the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lowville, which is owned by Avangrid, the wind company that wants to built about 40 500-foot wind towers in Parishville and Hopkinton. The trip is expected to take place in the coming weeks and the public is encouraged to attend.
Wood said if the wind farm does end up being built in her town, that she wants to follow what the Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board suggested: 2,500-foot setback and a sound decibel limit of 40 dBa.
She also said she was eager to update the law from 2011 to include language more appropriate for today’s standards. Wood said a wind law vote would not take place until after the election.
Wood wanted to shoot down rumors that a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement is in the works. She said that is not true at all.
Avangrid has previously stated that a PILOT agreement would give the two towns, the school and the county $750,000 to split. The money would not be an even split. Wood said the actual figure the towns, county and school would get is based on a tax rate formula.
“We do not want a PILOT,” she said. Wood said the Towns of Parishville and Hopkinton and Parishville-Hopkinton Central School are seeking an appraisal of land to see which would generate more money: a PILOT or taxes.
“I do want to say before I start and state my position if I start to hear any arguing then I’m done … I just want to make that plain before I start,” Parker said.
“On the PILOT, my position is whatever makes the town the most money — if that ends up being taxes or if that ends up being some kind of PILOT agreement over a 30-year term, that’s my position…whatever is best for the town,” Parker said.
Parker said he was in favor of the expansion of the overlay zone south of SH 72. “Because currently the Town of Hopkinton has no zoning and essentially the land north and south of 72 are both the same, residential, farm and forest.”
Parker was in favor of a 40 dBa sound limit for night and day.
‘My position on setbacks is setbacks for me are safety issue, so if the 40 dBa is met at 1,800 feet then I am comfortable at 1,800 feet,” Parker said.
Parker did not support a Property Value Guarantee Clause being included in the wind law at the advice of town lawyer Roger Linden.
When asked if he supported the industrial wind project in Hopkinton, Parker said, “I am still open to how it goes …but…yeah I am, I guess. I think it could be a benefit to the town.”
Parker offered no comment to questions asked of him on Tuesday morning. “Nothing to comment on because I have been misrepresented in the newspapers before,” he said.
When asked what he had misrepresented about, Parker said he could not remember.
Greg Crump, who is up for election in November, refused to answer questions from the group until he has more information stating that he is “going door-to-door and I am liking what I am hearing from the people I talk to.”
“You can’t possibly hit all the doors (to meet residents), so what about the people that don’t get to have you at their door,” Pease asked. Crump said, “They know where I live.”
Crump said when he was comfortable giving his position on the wind project that he would.
When challenged by audience members to give a position before the election, Crump maintained that he would not give his opinion until all of his questions were answered pertaining to the project.
Following questions from the audience members as to what Crump has questions about; Crump said he would go with the majority of what the town says.
Several members of the audience yelled out the street they live on in the hopes that Crump would visit them to discuss the wind project.
One audience member questioned Crump on the wind signs in his yard, asking, “who paid for your signs?” Crump responded by saying, “I did … who paid for yours?”
Crump said he is getting “a lot of good answers going door-to-door — a lot more than what you are going to get here.” When asked what he considered “a good answer,” Crump said he was done.
In a phone interview this morning Crump said he wants to visit the Lowville wind farm before making any decision. He said he had “good ideas” from his visit to the Jericho Rise Wind Farm last month in Belmont, but did not want to offer an opinion in the newspaper before visiting a second wind farm.
Crump said he enjoyed his experience at the wind farm in Belmont and looked forward to seeing a farm operated by Avangrid before offering an opinion.
Crump encouraged anyone interested to attend the visit to Lowville and said a public notice would likely be put in the newspaper.
Sue Lyon said she agreed with Councilman Parker in that she supports whatever is in the best interest of the town as far as a PILOT agreement. “Nobody has talked any kind of money — they’ve gave us a number but that’s not the bottom line.”
Lyon supported an overlay zone expansion south of 72 stating, “I would have to say if it’s good on one side the 72 then its good on the other side.
Lyon supported a 40 dBA sound limit 24 hours a day and a 2,500-foot setback, or five times the height of the tower.
Lyon was still looking into a Property Value Guarantee Clause and did not have an opinion on it.
Council members are hoping to visit another wind farm in Lowville, to see actual Avangrid towers. Lyon did not want to say if she supported the project as it stands now until she has seen the Lowville wind towers.
The trip to Lowville is expected to take place in the next month.
Lyon was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
Gilbert Sochia, who is up for election this year, said that “I am up for election too, right along with Greg I don't think we have to comment at this time.” That answer did not sit well with many in the audience.
“How will we know where you stand?” an audience member asked.
Sochia responded by saying, “I go house-to-house too, when I see you, then we will talk…I don’t need a sign.”
Sochia was asked about a pro-wind sign on his mailbox. “It keeps people like you and the other ones that came to the house out of the yard…and I’ve told a lot of people, put them up and get rid of them”
An audience members yelled, “and you want to represent taxpayers?”
He said he and others have been harassed over the issue, which led to a more heated discussion and accusations from the crowd that Avangrid offered councilmen money as bribes. This prompted Councilwoman Lyon to speak up and gain control of the meeting and end the questions being thrown at Sochia. “He’s voiced his opinion and that’s it,” Lyon said.
Sochia was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
The board is expected to meet again for its regular meeting Nov. 20.