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Letter to Prattsburgh Board

Town Board Prattsburgh, NY
19 N. Main St
Prattsburgh, NY 14873

RE: Eminent Domain Resolution

Board Members:

I challenge the propriety of using eminent domain for the benefit of a private company, UPC now First Wind, in Prattsburgh. The Constitution of the United States allows eminent domain in cases of "public use" only, and is intended to be used for providing essential services.

Industrial wind development does not meet the qualifications of an essential service, since it only duplicates the generation of electricity and does not replace our current generating facilities. The existing facilities must be kept on standby as backup for wind power; therefore the wind facility is redundant and not essential.

The perceived "public good" of the wind development helping solve our environmental problems and global warming has not been proven with any actual scientific data, for the reason that real world operation of industrial wind projects does not support this premise. Indeed, there are many negative effects associated with wind turbines, including serious safety issues, that would most definitely NOT be in the interest of Prattsburgh citizens.

An examination of the proposed economic benefit to the community reveals numbers based on estimates, without guarantees and without consideration of the overall costs to the community in lost property values, higher electricity rates and taxpayer subsidies and tax credits to the developer. Again, the public benefit is extremely questionable.

The increase in the abuse of eminent domain for the benefit of private entities has created a groundswell of opposition from New York and Detroit to California. Many individuals are fighting the practice, and the courts, which used to routinely rubber stamp local condemnations, are responding. Six state legislatures have passed bills increasing protections for people threatened with eminent domain. Eleven others are considering such bills, including New York.

Your actions affect not only Prattsburgh, but your neighboring communities as well. A decision to use eminent domain in this matter shows that the Town Board has no interest in protecting the fundamental rights of its citizens or in following the spirit of the United States Constitution. I strongly urge you to reconsider your stance on this resolution and do the right thing for your community and future generations in the Town of Prattsburgh.

Joan Simmons
Town of Italy

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Eminent Domain Hearing

Prattsburgh residents weigh in on eminent domain

5/25/08, Prattsburgh, N.Y. - Both sides of a dispute over eminent domain proceedings in the town of Prattsburgh weighed in with vigor Thursday night in the volunteer fire station.

Nearly 150 people attended the public hearing on a proposal for the town to seize roadway owned by seven residents. The properties are needed for a 100-mile underground electrical cable system for the 36-turbine wind farm being developed by First Wind.

Eminent domain allows a municipality to take private property if it serves a common good. The municipality must pay the owner for the land, determined by fair market value.

Click here to read Mary Perham's entire article in The Corning Leader. For those who are new to the controversy, background articles by Mary are linked in a preceding post.

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Eminent Domain Remarks

The following is from Jim Sawicki's public presentation to the Prattsburgh Town Board this past Thursday:

Good evening. I would like to thank the Town Board of Prattsburgh and everyone here tonight for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. I am a neighbor of Prattsburgh. My name is Jim Sawicki, and I own property in the town of Italy. So, it has come to this. Here we all are this evening faced with difficult issues... Neighbor pitted against neighbor. Communities split apart. For what? For whom?

Click here to read Jim's entire presentation. It's well worth your time.

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SCIDA Stiffs Schools Again

SCIDA refuses to alter windfarm agreement

5/16/08, Bath, N.Y. - A disagreement over the terms of a tax deal for a windfarm development in Prattsburgh will apparently have to be settled in court.

The Steuben County Industrial Development Agency refused to change the terms of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement Thursday for a 36-turbine project by First Wind, formerly known as UPC.

Attorneys for the Prattsburgh and Naples school districts requested a renegotiation claiming the company should be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes.

The tax agreement involves First Wind paying a fixed amount of taxes to the school districts, the town of Prattsburgh and the county over a 20-year period.

SCIDA approved the tax agreement Thursday and attorneys for the school districts said they will follow through with a court challenge. The two sides argued their cases in court in late April, prior to the final agreement being approved. Supreme Court Judge Peter Bradstreet presided over the hearing and a decision is pending.

Click here to read Mary Perham's entire article in The Corning Leader. For those who are new to the controversy, background articles by Mary are linked below:
4/4/08 - Schools sue over wind farm payments
5/3/08 - Schools await windfarm decision
5/9/08 - Opponents demand investigation into wind farms

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Leader of the Lemmings

RG&E's new owner-to-be

Ad running in the Democrat & Chronicle online



Urgent Hearing in Prattsburgh

This coming Thursday, May 22, from 7 to 9 pm there will be a Public Hearing at the Fire House at 15 Allis Street in Prattsburgh on Eminent Domain. Mentioned in the town’s resolution of April 21 are eight specific properties as well as any other property it might need on Rosey Hill Road, Gay Road, Cook School Road, Davis Road, Fisher Road, Dillenbeck Road, Block School Road and Matoon Road for the same purpose.

Those property owners who may subsequently wish to challenge condemnation of their property may only do so based on the issues, facts and objections raised at the Public Hearing. We have been told, but as of this date it has not been confirmed, that written comments can be submitted up until and including 5 pm May 27.

I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of attending this public hearing. This project will affect not just Prattsburgh, but all the surrounding towns. In this writer’s opinion, the reason that land needs to be condemned for the project is that, bottom line, the majority of people in Prattsburgh do not want this project.

Windfarm Prattsburgh has never proved its public benefit. The wind data has never been revealed, despite countless requests. Forcing landowners to sign easements for a project that will put 400 foot towers right next door to their property is nothing short of criminal. nd if Prattsburgh will do this for Windfarm Prattsburgh, they will do it for the Ecogen project and any other project that might come along. And once the precedent is set, other towns will be affected.

If you have any concern at all about Eminent Domain for this Project, please make your voice heard.

Very truly yours, Ruth Matilsky

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VN 5/13 - WCCS Taxpayers

The Wayland-Cohocton School Board needs to hear from you. Attend the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District Budget Hearing in the LGI Auditorium at WCCS in Wayland on Tuesday, May 13th from 7–9 pm.

This public hearing is important because your real estate tax bill is facing a dramatic increase this coming year. Meanwhile, UPC/First Wind refuses to pay their fair share to the WCCS. The PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) arranged by SCIDA is a pittance compared to the $2,000,000 plus a year in school taxes that would be assessed on the real value of the development if the owners of the industrial wind factory in Cohocton were to pay based on their assessment and current tax rate, like the rest of us folks.

And who are the owners of this privileged project? That’s a well-kept secret, but you can be pretty sure that the real equity owners are the super-rich who invest in these projects as tax shelters, not residents of rural upstate New York.

The Town of Naples and the Town of Prattsburgh have filed legal actions against SCIDA PILOTS and are now in court. These school districts stand to reap big dividends. But the Wayland-Cohocton School Board has refused to file its own suit so far. You, the hard pressed taxpayer, will be told to pay a large tax increase this coming year, but UPC/First Wind will get a huge tax exemption that will last for twenty years. Some school board members may even have vested family benefit putting their profit above your interest.

Attend the public hearing on May 13th and demand that the Wayland-Cohocton School Board file a legal action on all of our behalf. If Naples and Prattsburgh School Boards are fighting for their property owners, our Board should do the same. If they refuse to respond to the fiscal welfare of taxpayers, send a loud and clear message and VOTE DOWN the proposed WCCS Budget at the annual school budget vote to be held in the LGI Auditorium on Tuesday, May 20th. Polls open at 10 am and close at 8 pm. Thank you for getting the word out to your friends!

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Windmills Save Poor Farmer?

Innovative Dairy Attracts International Visitors

Lancaster Farming ran an article this week extolling the virtues of Paul Walcott's farm in Cohocton, noting that “windmills and a rotary dairy parlor set [his] farm apart.”

Long known locally as “the King of Lent Hill”, Paul was an early advocate of wind power in Cohocton and, according to the article, has 13 or just over 25% of UPC Wind's 50 Cohocton turbines on his property. At an annual leasehold rate of somewhere in the vicinity of $3,000 to $10,000 apiece (the terms are confidential because the industrial wind developer is a private corporation), Paul stands to make anywhere from $40,000 to upwards of $100,000 a year just for “hosting” the turbines on his land.

What effect will this financial windfall have on a the future of farmers like Paul? Lancaster Farming reports: “Depending on the size of the windmill and how much wind blows, Wolcott points out that a small dairy operation might be able to lease its land to a wind farm and retire on the profits. However, it isn’t quite the same for a large operation. 'It’s an additional source of income, but it won’t save our farm if we don’t do a good job with the dairy,' said Wolcott.”

Money apparently isn't the only motivator, however. Saving the country from dependence on foreign oil is also: “I think it’s obvious to most people that we need to do something about energy in this country and it seems like it’s better than sending our money to the Middle East for oil,” the article quotes Wolcott as saying.

The article goes on to note that there are those who disagree: “However, there still remains a minority of people who are against the wind farm. Wolcott believes even with sound science and facts to back up the process, it remains an emotional issue with some.”

Unfortunately, the “sound science and facts” Paul has been relying on to are deeply flawed, and the “emotional issue with some” that he points out may grow as Cohocton residents begin to cope with the total industrial desecration of their once scenic and tranquil hills that Paul's industrial installation has brought.

For one thing, the intermittent and unreliable electrical power that onshore wind turbines provide (estimated to be 10-25% of their rated capacity), will do absolutely nothing to diminish our reliance on foreign oil, whether it be from the controversial Middle East or elsewhere, because of one simple fact: less than 3% of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from petroleum and most of that is from waste disposal. And the specious argument that it will cut down our emission of CO2 is even more debatable.

What is incontrovertible, however, is that the turbines Paul so eagerly invited into Cohocton have destroyed the natural beauty of Lent Hill Farm's “1,850 acres of rolling hills overlooking the countryside below" as well as it's boast that the surrounding area remains "free from development and urban pressure.”

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Citizen Power Alliance

Group critical of wind farms
Coalition would keep watch on state energy policy issues

Jim Hall has a philosophy. The 60-year-old Steuben County resident is part of Cohocton Wind Watch - one of numerous small-town groups opposing wind farms proposed in their communities. Each group is up against the same cookie cutter” approach when a wind energy developer enters their town with a potential project, Hall says. And they’re often re-inventing the wheel in their efforts.

Hall is among those organizing the Citizen Power Alliance. The coalition of groups and activists aims to address the bigger, state issues involved in energy projects and policy. The CPA will conduct an organizational meeting the morning of May 18 at Letchworth State Park. We’re not limited to strictly wind issues,” Hall said. Wednesday. “We’re an environmental and energy alternative group that encompasses energy and environmental policy - primarily in New York State but we have members outside the state ax well.”

The CPA includes 14 member groups so far, including Citizens for a Healthy Rural Neighborhood of Perry. They’re primarily based in Western New York, though the CPA is a statewide group, with other members in New Hampshire and Ohio. “The alliance coalition has been organizing over the past several months,” Hall said. The Letchworth gathering is more a get-together because we don’t have a tremendous amount of opportunity where people can see each other face-to-face.”

Members will discuss which directions they’d like to pursue, along with organizing leadership and committees. Eminent domain and the state’s proposed Article X legislation are among the CPA’s biggest concerns. Hall said.

Click here to read Matt Surtel's entire article in the Batavia Daily News.

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Advocates for Prattsburgh Plea

Dear Folks,

This message is long, so you might want to print it out and read it at your leisure, especially the quotes from the Resolution and the Easement (see References below).

The town of Prattsburgh has authorized the commencement of condemnation proceedings against eight landowners who have refused to sign easements for the Windfarm Prattsburgh project (see references below for quote from the resolution). Advocates for Prattsburgh has consulted lawyers to determine whether litigation is practical. We are told that if the condemnation is appealed the town would have to prove public purpose – something we believe has never really been done. Keep in mind that the Company is private and Prattsburgh will not get free electricity. Using these lawyers would cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.

This mailing is going out all over the state as well as to Prattsburgh landowners and residents because eminent domain and public benefit is an issue that affects all of us, especially those of us involved in the fight for proper regulation of wind projects. We need to know how much support there would be for litigation and would appreciate your taking the time to let us know the following:

  1. This question mostly pertains to those who own land in Prattsburgh and Italy, but anyone is welcome: Do you wish to be (or continue to be) a member of Advocates for Prattsburgh? If yes, Please provide your name address and phone number. If you own land in Prattsburgh, could you indicate the address of the land?
  2. Do you support litigation to fight the condemnation?
  3. How much money would you be willing to pledge to support the fight?
  4. What can you do to help? Fund raise? Write letters? Attend meetings?
  5. Is there a lawyer among you who would work pro bono?

Please think carefully about this because we will be basing our strategy on the kind of support that we have. We believe that this eminent domain proceeding not only works against the people of Prattsburgh but against the people of New York.


A. From the Resolution of April 21, 2008 at special meeting of the Town Board of the Town of Prattsburgh - Adopted by a vote of 3-2:

Resolved that the Town Board authorizes the commencement of condemnation proceedings under the EDPL against the landowners... identified in Exhibit A to this resolution for the purpose of obtaining the remaining easements necessary for the Company to construct, install, operate, maintain, repair and replace conduit and electrical lines within the rights of way along, within and across the following roads within the Town of Prattsburgh: Rosey Hill Road, Gay Road, Cook School Road, Davis Road, Fisher Road, Dillenbeck Road, Block School Road, Matoon Road.

In addition the Board shall also authorize the commencement of condemnation proceedings against any other [unnamed] property along the aforementioned roads for the purposes of obtaining the remaining easements necessary for the Company to construct, install, operate, maintain, repair and replace conduit and electrical lines within the rights of way if the Company can show to the Town Supervisor’s satisfaction that best efforts have failed to obtain an agreement with such additional landowners.

B. We have been given a copy of the underground line easement that people are being asked to sign, which says in part:

That the grantor...does hereby grant...the exclusive and permanent right of way and easement to build, rebuild, relocate, operate, repair, maintain, renew and at their pleasure remove underground transmission lines for purposes of transmitting electricity, communication systems, including cables conduit, wires, pedestals, closures, handholes, transformers, pipe and pipelines and other such appurtenant or supporting apparatus, structures or markers as the Company, or such successors or assignees, may now or shall from time to time hereafter deem necessary for the transmission and distribution of electricity and the rendition of communication service upon, under, through and across strips of lands twenty five (25) feet in width from the border of the Grantor’s property and continuing along the public right of way within certain property owned in fee by the Grantor located in tax map...

Grantee may freely assign, mortgage, encumber, sublease, license or otherwise convey all or any portion of its interests under this Easement Agreement…without obtaining the consent of Grantor.

Grantor also conveys to the Company the right of way and easement for the passage of persons, vehicles and machines as shall be deemed necessary for construction, installation, maintenance and removal of the Company’s facilities and as a covenant running with the land hereby... and releases the Company from any and all claims of damages to the property or lands within the bounds of said easement strip.

Nancy Wahlstrom
Advocates for Prattsburgh

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McConnell Refuses to Recuse

Prattsburgh supervisor accused of profiting off vote to seize land for turbines

Under fire over accusations he and other town and county officials have endorsed generous tax breaks and cut sweetheart deals with the Massachusetts-based UPC Corp. wind farm developer, Prattsburgh Supervisor Harold McConnell faces further criticism following a vote last week to condemn and seize private land for the project.

After admitting he accepted real estate commissions in at least one land deal last fall involving UPC, McConnell on April 21 cast the deciding vote on an “eminent domain” resolution.” The action will allow construction of 36 controversial, 386-foot tall wind turbines towers in the town.

Scores of the imposing, densely-clustered turbine towers have spiraled taller than upended football fields above the Naples Valley on hilltops in neighboring Cohocton in recent months. Many other communities have frantically enacted moratoriums and taken other actions to control placement of the massive towers pending further study of environmental impact and questions about whether the turbines can do what they are intended - generate “clean, safe power” in a rural region touched more by occasional gentle breezes than by strong and steady winds.

by Jack Jones in The Naples Record, April 30, 2008

Click here to read the entire article.

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