GLENMONT — A state Supreme Court judge is now weighing arguments surrounding whether Bethlehem residents received ample notification before the town approved plans for a $350 million wind turbine manufacturing plant.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice James Ferreira listened to oral arguments from Glenmont residents, including attorney Chris Dempf, who is leading a group of neighbors in an Article 78 hearing held in Albany last Monday.
It could take months before a decision is handed down while the court continues to hear arguments.
The Article 78 filed against the Town of Bethlehem and the Albany Port District Commission in June contends that neighboring residents were not properly notified of the port’s expansion plans, which include construction on Beacon Island.
The 81-acre island was stripped of trees and brush this spring, a move approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but alarmed residents concerned with the coal ash that has remained settled for decades. For the nearly three dozen residents who have since filed suit, it was their first notice of a project that has earned support from as far as Washington, D.C.
The port’s expansion plan has been used as an example by Washington D.C. on how the country can move towards a greener economy. Millions of dollars in grants have been promised towards the project, heralded as the nation’s first offshore wind facility.
The 31 petitioners seek to reverse the Planning Board’s approval of the plan’s site requirements under state Environmental Quality Review. Known commonly as SEQR, site review requires public comment — which was provided — but neighboring residents said they never received proper notice.
Petitioners acknowledge the town’s planning and zoning boards may have provided notice to entities within the mandated 200-foot radius of the project, but those are commercial properties, they state. But they say the scale of the project, including industrial noise, site view and potential increased traffic, should have called for broader attention.
“Not to provide such written notice to residential property owners within the impact area (1-2 miles) for the present 80-acre project, with near and distant views and impacts, is not within the spirit of the law and the duties that a lead agency supervising the Environmental Impact Statement Process is mandated to follow.”
Using language from the EIS process, residents cite the project fails to consider the character of the neighborhood, stating that nearby residences date back to the 1800s, and ignores other facets of the community within a two-mile radius that includes family homes and schools. The port’s plan to build four buildings, as high as 110 feet tall and 20 27-foot tall smoke stakes is “incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.”
The port had asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed in a response filed with the state Supreme Court in September. It argues that residents had ample time be involved with the review process, which started in September 2018.
“From the start, the Port of Albany and the Town of Bethlehem have been focused on making sure that the health and safety of the entire community is not adversely affected by this project,” the Port shared in a statement released in June. “It is the Port’s mission to continue to demonstrate that their highest priority is the care and wellbeing of this community and to require best management practices in its pursuit of this historic project.”