The Hartland Town Board took on multiple waves of public concern last night, as a flood of residents rallied to keep industrialized solar farms away from their homes.
Terri Ferina, a longtime resident of Hartland on Ridge Road, made her case to the board; leading with, “New York State has a mass exodus of people, we have enough excuses for people to move out.”
She continued, “Most of this land that the solar panels would be on is farmland or owned by the elderly who just want to live peacefully in their homes until the day they die.”
Lastly, Ferina questioned the boards claim of transparency when informing the town:
“We get many notifications from the Town of Hartland – from newsletters to our garbage collection calendars – we never got any notice on plans for solar panels or lithium banks.”
Ross Annable, Supervisor for the Town of Hartland, insisted the board fulfilled their duty in notifying the public; stating, “Now, I know a lot of people said they didn’t see it, but it was in the newspaper.” Although, there was no mention of any attempt to distribute notice on the 20-megawatt energy collecting installations (the energy equivalent to 17 tons of TNT when at capacity) in the same manner they make garbage schedules available with direct notifications to the household.
One attending resident in the crowd sprung a quick idea, “What about a referendum?”
Supervisor Annable was quick to respond, “By law we cannot have a public referendum. What we can do by town law is have a survey or a poll, and that’s what we intend to do.” When the room openly criticized the State law; Annable declared, “There’s a lot of New York State laws we don’t like.”
Mike Outten, President of the Coalition to Protect Our Rural Communities Inc., explained what his organization stands for, and how he feels about these proposed installations,
“We are a statewide coalition fighting against industrial solar in our agricultural, residential communities. We are a grassroots movement out of Hartland located in Niagara County. We have formed this coalition for multiple reasons, such as, stopping the Governor and Albany politicians. We would like to stop them from pushing their big money, green ideas down our throats, and personal political agendas.”
Outten, whose group represents gun rights, hunting rights, wildlife and land preservations, continued,
“We are very concerned for the residents of New York State regarding our rights in the realm of hunting and discharging firearms due to the construction of industrial solar structures all over the countryside. As all hunters know, firearms cannot be discharged within 500 feet of all structures.”
Outten also expanded upon his fears for the rights of local agrarians,
“The ramifications of these projects to the existing farmers who really do want to farm all of their land, they will find increasing costs to buy or lease land and increasing costs for feed and seed supplies.”
He added, “The cascading effect will lead to less land and supplies. It will also lead to diminishing herd sizes, profitability, and the next generation of farmers. In fact, the next generation of farmers will diminish because of the greed of a few, and the political agenda of crooked politicians.”
James Minner, a local firefighter and EMT, gave some thoughts of his own. He was not bashful in his assessment of this situation and has been on the frontline in gathering petitions to see this plan squashed.
“How many more people need to come with standing room only, they’ll keep on coming,” Minner stated. He continued, “We’ve got another 125 petitions tonight, how many more do you need? You need a thousand? We’ll have them.”
Minner also questioned why the board needed a poll, “Why waste tax money on a poll? The majority is against this.” Furthermore, he stated that him and those aligned with him would be happy to collect as many petitions as necessary to shut this down quickly.
Yes, even if that equated to half the Town of Hartland for an ultimate majority (roughly 2,000 would be half of Hartland’s total population) and Minner is confident he could obtain the signatures required.
Additionally, Minner took a swipe at Article 10 and New York State, “What they’re proposing is against the town law, they have to use Cuomo and Article 10 to overturn our town law.”
Article 10 was reintroduced into New York State Law in 2011 after expiring in 2003. This Article allows the State to endorse certain energy projects, and in certain cases, supersede local laws to get it done.
Lastly, Minner explained to the board on Article 10,
“The people of this town are against this project. I don’t think you have an obligation to hear out EDF Renewable Energies, they violate the town code.”
He added, “You can make it very difficult for them, even if they use Article 10. You should unify with your constituents as we are unified as a town.”