Opponents who hoped Monroe would become the fifth New York county to reject the idea of offshore wind farms have fallen a little short.
An advisory resolution opposing the New York Power Authority plan to locate wind turbines in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie has been signed by 12 of 29 Monroe County legislators, three short of a majority.
The 12 county lawmakers who endorsed the nonbinding resolution were Republicans. Four Republicans and all 13 Democrats declined to sign the resolution, which was offered by Rick Antelli, a Republican who represents shoreline neighborhoods in Greece.
Vincent Esposito, D-Irondequoit, was one of two legislators representing shoreline districts who refused to sign the resolution. "I'm very gratified that a bipartisan majority of the legislation has agreed to wait" before passing judgment on the offshore wind proposal, he said.
The New York Power Authority is currently reviewing five proposals from private-sector wind developers to build offshore wind turbines somewhere in lakes Ontario or Erie. The agency has urged public officials and citizens to be patient until a developer is chosen and a location revealed, likely in late 2010 or early 2011.
"We respect the legislators' vote on the initiative and the decision to wait until a development option is selected," said NYPA spokeswoman Connie Cullen. Once that happens, she said, "the project's details will be disclosed and discussed publicly over an extended period of time."
The authority has denied a Freedom of Information law request by the Democrat and Chronicle for the five developers' proposals, and is more than a month late responding to an appeal of that denial.
Antelli said many of his constituents had already decided they want nothing to do with 400-foot-tall turbines a few miles off the Monroe shoreline.
"Pretty much my goal was to represent the people in the 7th Legislative District. The other legislators had to take a look at what their constituents are requesting of them," Antelli said Thursday when asked about the fate of the resolution. "Overall, I'm pleased."
Lawmakers in Wayne, Oswego, Jefferson and Chautauqua counties have voted by wide margins to oppose the plan by the New York Power Authority to locate one or more wind farms in the near-shore waters of lakes Ontario or Erie. The Niagara County Legislature endorsed the authority proposal last year, but recently named a panel to revisit that decision.
Unlike those counties, Monroe's legislature did not hold a public discussion or vote. Instead, it used a more informal process in which Antelli submitted a resolution of opposition to his colleagues for their signatures. It took until Thursday for legislative officials to get final word as to who had signed on.
Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, meanwhile, is maintaining a neutral stance on the project.
"The county executive does not have an official position. She is listening to advocates on both sides of the issue. She thinks it's helpful to have a robust public debate," Noah Lebowitz, a spokesman for the Brooks administration, said last week.
Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy said last week he believes passing resolutions of opposition is short-sighted. "We need to look at this for the long term and explore this," he said.
Duffy, who is running for lieutenant governor, said offshore wind farms were desirable as a source of renewable energy and, potentially, a source of jobs and economic growth for the Rochester region.
But, he said he knows people have legitimate concerns about the turbines, especially their esthetic impact. "If they buy a home on Beach Avenue or anywhere along the lake, they want to look out their windows every morning and see the water. I respect that," Duffy said. "I don't think we in any way can make a rash decision. If we put our minds together, I bet we could come up with some alternatives and compromises that could produce that first wind farm."
Of the five Monroe County legislators who represent part of the Lake Ontario shoreline, Antelli, Richard Yolevich, R-Parma, and Mike Rockow, R-Sweden, signed the anti-wind farm resolution. Two others, Esposito and Carmen Gumina, R-Webster, did not. Gumina's non-signature is noteworthy, as the Webster Town Board has passed its own resolution of opposition.
Gumina did not return a telephone message or an e-mail requesting comment.