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Pressure from Big Wind

Italy zoning changes pave way for wind energy

PENN YAN — The Yates County Planning Board approved proposed incentive zoning amendments to the Town of Italy’s comprehensive plan that would make way for wind energy development.

Incentive zoning refers to designated areas in the town where wind turbines would be allowed and developers eligible for financial incentives.

At Thursday’s meeting, board member Dave Christiansen asked Italy Town Supervisor Margaret Dunn why the town didn’t address the zoning issue during its moratorium on wind farm development.

At that time, Dunn said a majority of people opposed wind farm development and the town eventually banned wind farms. However, a lawsuit filed by wind farm developer EcoGen LLC prompted discussions with the town attorney on incentive zoning, she said, with feedback from the town board and residents supportive of such an option.

She said the proposed zones encompass two locations, which were chosen because the areas have already attracted interest from developers and town residents there are interested in leasing their properties.

Board Member Carroll Graves asked if a developer could still sue the town over potential development areas that are excluded from the incentive zoning plan. Dunn replied that she hopes the zoning proposal will show courts that the town is allowing such development, even if it’s in a designated area.

Click here to read the complete Finger Lakes Times article by by Amanda Folts.

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Letter to the Editor

Environmentalists holding U.S. back

To those with an open mind on wind power, I suggest a ride down Interstate 390 between Cohocton and Avoca. On the horizon are endless windmill generators that scar thousands of acres and ruin what was an outstanding natural vista. Exit at Cohocton and drive into the hills in the vicinity of these monstrosities. They are huge and grotesque. In a rural sense, they are in people's backyards. By contrast, a single nuclear plant would occupy 1 percent of the acreage and generate more power on a consistent basis. What happens to wind power when the wind dies? Conventional power is still needed for backup.

I cannot believe that environmentalists are sincere when they are willing to mar our scenic and inhabited landscape while opposing drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a totally barren, flat and unoccupied space of a mere 2,000 acres out of 19 million acres in the Alaskan preserve. This leads me to conclude that the alternate energy movement is not about energy, but about forcing on us government control of our national productivity.

by Arnold Petralia, Greece

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Lawsuits blown away

Steuben judge dismisses CWW efforts to halt $230 million First Wind project

Bath, N.Y. - Cohocton town officials are breathing a sigh of relief today after three legal challenges to the $230 million wind turbine development in the town have been dismissed.

Steuben County Supreme Court Judge Marianne Furfure sided with Cohocton town officials, developer First Wind and leaseholders Tuesday morning, dismissing three lawsuits filed by local advocacy group Cohocton Wind Watch to halt work on the 50-turbine wind development in the town.

According to Cohocton town Supervisor Jack Zigenfus, Furfure made her ruling from the bench. No written copy of the decision was available Tuesday afternoon, according to employees at the Steuben County Supreme Court Clerk’s office. “She just dismissed it without comment,” he said.

Click here to read Bob Clark' entire Hornell Evening Tribune article.

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Italy Under Pressure

Not in my valley, say Italy residents

Members of the Italy Town Board listen to people speak during
a public hearing to rezone land to allow windmills in the town on Saturday.

Nearly 70 concerned residents and neighbors spoke out about potential rezoning for wind turbines in the Italy Valley at a public hearing Saturday. The discussion continued a forum that began at a meeting last week in which emotional residents protested the proposed changes, which would allow developer Ecogen LLC to move forward with plans for wind turbines in two areas in the southern portion of the town.

About two-thirds of the speakers on Saturday opposed wind development, said Town Board member Malcolm MacKenzie. Of those, many surmised that developers are not concerned about the best interest of the residents.

Click here to read the entire Messenger Post article.

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Farmland to Forest - Part 3


This is part three of a four-part story by Bill Banaszewski about the land surrounding the Finger Lakes and the wildlife and people who inhabited it. While many details are based on research in Livingston, Ontario, Yates and Tompkins counties, the story is representative of the entire hilly landscape of the region.

By 1850 much of the forested green canopy that had covered the Finger Lakes region since prehistoric time had vanished. As the virgin forest disappeared, so did the loggers. They were replaced by farmers, who continued to clear the hillsides until 1880. By then only 25 percent of the lands remained forested, quite a contrast from the 90 percent forest cover that greeted the pioneer settlers nearly a century before.

As the land changed, forest-dwelling wildlife and species that were a threat to the livelihood of farmers became rare to nonexistent. However, species that preferred farmland and open fields, such as bobolinks and bluebirds, benefited from the changing habitat and flourished. Legend is the bluebird was almost as common during the late 1800s as the robin is today.

The early 19th century proved to be a prosperous time for some Finger Lakes farmers. After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, farmers were able to send corn, rye, flax and wheat to many new markets. For a short period of time the area was known as the wheat belt of the nation. Teasel growing, a specialized industry that used the larger thistle for raising the nap of cloth, was prospering near Skaneateles.

As new lands to the west opened, farm competition became fierce and affected everyone. No one was hurt more in the late 1800s than the hillside farmers. It might be said that these farm families enjoyed a simple, uncomplicated life, but it was certainly not an easy one. In fact the romanticism that is often associated with the past bears little resemblance to reality. The physical and spiritual punishment inherent in farming poor soil was accepted by the strong-willed pioneers, but far too often their hopes and aspirations were crushed by uncontrollable forces. Never much above a subsistence level at the best of times, they were constantly battling short growing seasons and shallow, unproductive soil. While glaciers deposited extensive amounts of till in the valleys, very little was deposited on the steep, higher elevations. Layers of topsoil there were thin. Stripped of trees and without crop rotation, the hillsides were exposed to sheet erosion, and within half a century any topsoil that was present had vanished. The hardpan that was left was useless for farming.

While circumstances varied throughout the Finger Lakes, the late 1800s was the time when the destiny of the hillside farmers was irreversibly sealed and doomed. Unable to afford new farming machinery that was changing the economic basis of agriculture, the now elderly farmers were forced from the hillsides and into towns. Younger members of the farm families had little interest in the dawn-to-dusk, seven-day-a-week, backbreaking work that would barely ensure their survival. With little interest in returning to the land, they too left for better work in town or to engage in flatland farming.

Between 1880 and 1925, one quarter of all farms in south central New York were abandoned. Families who came to the Finger Lakes’ hillsides full of expectations packed their meager belongings in their wagons and, for one last time, closed the doors of the farmhouses they had spent months building and transforming into homes. Much of the farm equipment and other remnants of their daily life were left in the fields where they were last used, resting in silent companionship with the illusion of their defeated land users. In essence the farms were left to rot.

Nature took precious little time in starting the process of breaking down man’s temporal effects. The forces of sun, wind, rain, snow, vegetation and wildlife soon asserted their collective power. Left undisturbed, the land follows a process of natural succession. Simply stated, it is nature’s way of repairing and reclaiming disturbances to the land. Natural succession proceeds in stages. In no time, grasses, vines and shrubs covered the abandoned farm machinery, fences, barns and eventually the homes of the pioneer farmers. Once again nature, the original change agent, was in control of the Finger Lakes landscape.

Farmland to Forest is adapted from a multimedia presentation coproduced by Bill Banaszewski and his friend and colleague, the late John Meuser, while they were professors at Finger Lakes Community College. Watch for Part IV, the conclusion of our year-long series, in the Winter Issue of Life in the Finger Lakes.

Click here to read Part I and Part II of this series.

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