HAMMOND — At a special Town Council meeting Monday, a silenced crowd was sharply divided against the town board as it passed a law regulating the creation of wind energy farms.
The law passed 3-0. James Pitcher and Russell Stewart did not vote because they have recused themselves from wind law meetings for conflicts of interest.
Roughly 20 community members attended the meeting, which was not open to public comment. Several people in the audience left as Supervisor Janie G. Hollister announced the law had been passed and after the meeting was adjourned, most of the citizens gathered at the back to share their comments.
"I think the decision was made a long time ago," said one man.
"There hasn't been enough studies," said another.
"I can see this town splitting wide open," said a third.
Since 2005, when a test tower from PPM Energy of Portland, Ore., which is part of the Spanish company Iberdrola SA, went up on property near the St. Lawrence River on County Route 6, wind energy has been a major topic for the town.
A moratorium on further development of test towers or turbines was enacted in February, while a wind energy committee, composed of community residents and alternative-energy experts, discussed issues such as setbacks, heights and locations for turbines.
The group used the St. Lawrence County Planning Board and Environmental Management Council wind farm ordinance as a guide for its development of a proposed law.
On Oct. 11 the moratorium expired and Oct. 22 the law was presented to the board.
Board member James Langtry said the moratorium's expiration was a major factor in his decision.
"Our moratorium ran out," he said. "If we don't pass this law, a wind company can come in tomorrow, signing people up, and the only benefit would be to the land owner."
Board member Ronald E. Tulley II had similar concerns, while Mrs. Hollister spoke about the budget and some misunderstanding in the town.
"I don't think people realize how closely the wind committee looked at the law," she said. "Also, I think a lot of fear has been spread unnecessarily. There's always going to be something you missed, so I think it's time for the town to move forward."
Mr. Tulley said the decision, and especially its impact on future development, weighed heavily on his mind for a long time.
"At the last meeting people said the law wasn't good enough for future development, but what future development? I see things leaving, but nothing is coming," Mr. Tulley said. "Is this all that's left for Hammond?"
As people talked in the back, one resident was more concerned with what might be leaving.
"Whenever I hear the geese they sound so good, and every time I hear them now I think how they're gonna be gone," said resident Connie A. Wortman.