What was supposed to pump new money into the town of Cape Vincent and make a renewable source of energy available only seemed to bring rancor and bitterness.
In 2005, BP proposed developing a 124-turbine wind farm on adjacent properties in the town.
Many full-time residents supported the idea of infusing the community with an additional stream of revenue, particularly because some of them would benefit by leasing their land to BP. They asserted their right to make money off the property they owned.
But part-time residents objected to the notion of introducing a wind farm into the community. They believed this would decrease the value of the homes they own along the St. Lawrence River. They didnt want to spend their leisure time staring at numerous wind turbines.
Its a moot point now as BP as announced this week it is pulling the plug on the project. The oil company was unable to attract a buyer for the planned 285-megawatt industrial wind farm.
BP said it will terminate land leases effective March 31 and remove meteorological towers this spring. The New York State Public Service Commission had set a deadline of March 17 for BP to identify a buyer.
The disagreement among Cape Vincent residents turned personal and often got ugly. Some part-time residents changed their residencies so they would be eligible to vote in Cape Vincent, which impacted local elections. This led many people to question who qualifies as a genuine Cape Vincent resident and who has the towns best interests at heart.
Its unfortunate that one issue has divided so many people in Cape Vincent for nearly a decade. There were two legitimate, albeit opposing arguments for this projects merit.
The problem is that many people viewed this as an all-or-nothing contest. There was no room for compromise, which led some residents to go to extremes to ensure their side won the debate.
Residents must begin the process of healing some of the wounds caused by this experience. They can start by recognizing that perhaps they themselves were responsible for some of the pain inflicted.
Among the people who supported the project were those who questioned how committed part-time residents were to Cape Vincent. Despite the fact that they owned property in town and paid taxes just like everyone else, they were often made to feel like outsiders who deserved no voice in major decisions.
And those who opposed the wind farm project should understand that residents who held land leases stood to benefit financially at a time when it was most needed. They live in Cape Vincent day in and day out and are most impacted by the ups and downs of the local economy. Can you really blame them for wanting to take advantage of this opportunity?
Community leaders need to lead an effort to repair the breaches among Cape Vincent residents. Ignoring deep divisions risks creating future obstacles to growth, and the community cannot afford this.