At the Special meeting at Recreation Park, Tuesday evening Planning Board Member Butch Cullen addressed Richard Chandler, BP project developer.
Butch Cullen: Can you hear me?
Butch Cullen: just a little bit of background. I'm looking at this whole thing in a little different light than some of the people especially the planning board members and town board members. I've been involved in zoning in this town for, I don't know since 1989, on and off. A member the planning board for 13 years, I have experienced a lot of situations with small-scale site plan reviews. I have gone through a lot of training at state level and county level relative to how to deal with projects, site reviews especially. So, I concentrate on the procedures that the planning board members need to follow.
I was brought back onto the planning board about a year and a half ago, because of the meltdown of our previous planning board and the fact that this community needed help in regard to planning. My experience, past training drove me to start doing some research on this project, and what really baffles me is we have very small projects in this town, very small projects that have been handled well than this one. BP, the size of your Corporation, I'm sure you guys go through this all the time, all the time. You must have capabilities to deal with almost any land use regulation, or zoning law or anything else globally that you can imagine. For some strange reason you chose not to be upfront with the planning board and the town board. It was a backdoor approach, and I'll just give you some examples of that.
There were secret communications, utterly secret communications, with leaseholders, potential leaseholders, town officials, planning board officials, who knows, who else, years before you applied for this project, probably some of them were under contract with you before you applied for this project. When you did apply which was in 2006, your SEQRA application information was vague and incomplete. The noise impact study was questionable and probably biased. There was no plan to mitigate several of the positive environmental impacts and there still isn’t and there probably never will be.
You put pressure on the Jefferson County industrial development agency to cut you a deal, a tax deal with the town, and to take this town’s taxing jurisdiction authority, completely away.
It was in 2006 when you applied for this this project and to my knowledge this planning board has not seen one additional bit of official information from BP, relative to modifications of the application. I've kept an eye on this project since day one and that map, the first definitive map I've seen for the project. So, your comments about involving the community, it hasn't happened. I was on the economic impact committee. Are you aware of the economic impact study that has been done? Are you familiar with that?
Chandler: I'm familiar with the fact that the St. Lawrence wind farm project completed the SEQR process; including the Draft Supplemental final EIS as well as the Cape Vincent wind farm draft EIS.
Butch Cullen: The town board formed a committee to do an economic impact study of wind development in this town. Are you familiar with that? Are you aware of that?
Chandler: I'm not familiar with the study.
Butch Cullen: It’s important; you should read it, because the state of New York certainly will want to see it, in their evaluation. Anyway, as part of that process I went to the BP office to obtain some information, so we could put our study together, BP refuse to provide information that I asked for. They flat refused to provide it, we were handed that yellow map that’s been in circulation for six years.
I guess it was Jim Madden, there’s a map in there, it's got some dots on it, you guys can figure out who, where those towers, sites are, and he said, by the way it's not complete, or its not accurate its close but it's about all your get out of me. So, anyway that's how cooperative BP has been relative to the impact study.
There's really been no meaningful involvement with BP in this planning board, which should be as opposed to everybody except us since 2006. There was a point in time when I felt (when I came back on the planning board) that it would be worthwhile to just sit down around one table with their advisors, our consultants , BP planning board members and try and put a fence around this thing to figure out where we really are. So, Mr. Macsherry asked Peter Gross to consider attending a meeting, planning board meeting, a timeline and scheduling meeting. He felt that that wasn't in his best interest to do that. Then to top matters off, submitting the PIP plan to the state of New York that is no better than what I just described. A whole bunch of big empty information and they let you know in what, six pages of comments as to what they thought about your PIP plan.
I guess my point is, if you're going to go to the state of New York for review what happens if you fail there? Is it possible you'll come back to us? If you fail at the state level, will you come back to this planning board for review?
Chandler: Again, we think the Article 10 process provides the best opportunity for the project to move along and we intend on it adhering to the process, provide the information that we need to make it a robust and complete an application as possible.
Butch Cullen: So, you're saying you probably won't come back to us.
Chandler: I think we have a very valuable project here for this community. The Article 10 process provides an appropriate avenue for pursuing the project and moving forward, and we are going to pursue that.
Butch Cullen: So, you will or will not answer the question. Will you be coming back to this planning board with an application for wind development project if the state turns you down?
Chandler: We can hold the hypothetical situations here, the fact is, and we have an application that we are working on for a project that we believe provides true benefit both economically and environmentally for both the community and the state. We are focused on moving forward in the process.
Butch Cullen: Needless to say, I'm not sure you really understand you probably got an idea by looking around this room how enormous this project is to this town. It’s a tsunami as far as Cape Vincent is concerned. But I'm not sure you really understand the character and the history and the other key aspects of this community. I really don't think you understand that. Certainly BP… Just let me tell you some of the impacts, the pressures on this community in the last 13 years. Families have been torn apart, totally torn apart, friendships destroyed. Health of individuals impacted. I could go into detail on that but there are people in this room that I'd rather not have hear that. The voters were in turmoil, they did their job they elected the people they wanted because of wind in this community. Our town budget is difficult for this town board to plan, due to the expenses its put this town through and getting legal services and pay other costs associated with what we are going through.
The town board has been in and upheaval it settled down, now we have a fabulous town board. Planning board went through a meltdown; we have a fabulous planning board now. There are some here that don't like it but there's a reason why they don't like it, it's because it's a good planning board. We volunteered we have literally thousands of volunteer hours in this community, these people sitting right here at these tables put this thing back together ,picked up the pieces to get this town back on track and we did that.
Been tremendously difficult for local businesses. If you are pro-wind you go one place, if you are anti-wind you go another and that's the way it is. Poor businessmen don't know what to say. Our organizations have even been impacted. Some people think if wind comes to the town were gonna get a new clock on the village green, or something’s gonna be repaired or have some work done at the lighthouse. These people don't know what to think. Just a few examples of what's going on here, in case you didn't know. The end result of all this in my opinion, if you took a vote in this room, in this town right now there's a total lack of trust in BP, based on past experience.
We see a new BP here tonight, only because state of New York demands it, that’s why we see a new BP here, none of this stuff ever happened until tonight. We removed the conflicted or unethical board members. It's all been the result of wind. We had a meltdown on our planning board, all a result of wind. We updated our comprehensive plan (something else you should become familiar with) all because of wind. We amended our zoning law, all because of wind.
The threat of you going to Article X is another disconnect with Cape Vincent. Basically what you're telling us is we just don't intend to abide by what the local community wants. It's just another disconnect. So, as I mentioned we updated our comp plan and our zoning law. We updated our comp plan because it's what the people in this town want, and it's also what they don't want. It clearly states what they want and what they don't want. You should become familiar with that even though you won’t abide by it. We have a zoning law based on our comprehensive plan, the way it should be based on scientific fact and expert advice. Any fair and unbiased siting board would expect nothing less from BP than what is contained in our comprehensive plan.
No matter what route you take, that is if you decide to go with Article X and never come back here, I think you should be prepared to know, Cape Vincent is going to defendants local laws, and its land-use regulations entirely as they are written.