from PATRICK DOYLE
To the Editor:
This letter is in response to your March 20 article on the process to develop new zoning in Richfield, “Petition Drive in Offing,” and a follow-up letter from Larry Frigault, Richfield Town Board member.
To recap, the March 20 article highlighted concerns that the proposed zoning for Richfield would limit business in the town. The article also wondered if, with “windmill foes” and their allies now in control of “the whole apparatus of the Richfield town government,” the new zoning might pass.
What the March 20 article WASN’T about was the new Richfield Comprehensive Plan, but Larry raised the Comp Plan in his letter. Let’s note of what Larry said about the Comp Plan: It was created by a large group of volunteers (14 in total) working with professional guidance. Contrary to what Larry stated, however, there were limits on who could be on the Comp Plan Committee.
For example, the town board didn’t want people on multiple boards – when Kane Seamon was elected to the town board, he had to leave the Comp Plan Committee. Similarly, the Richfield Town Board chose not to co-opt Comp Plan Committee members onto the town board when a vacancy arose, to avoid conflicts.
What the March 20 article WAS about was the proposed new zoning for Richfield, how it was developed and the potential for conflicts of interest. The proposed zoning was developed by a group of only three people – the two founding members of Dan Sullivan and Carol Frigault (Larry’s wife), both “windmill foes,” and Brad Smith who was added later.
Larry Frigault is clearly heavily invested in the proposed ordinance – aside from voting for his wife to be on this tiny committee, he is quoted saying that he liked the ordinance. Larry even paid for an advertisement in the local Pennysaver last September defending this proposed ordinance.
In his letter, Larry tries to conflate the Comp Plan and the proposed zoning, but they cannot be compared. The proposed zoning was developed by a tiny group, with two thirds conflicted by their legal challenges to a permit issued to Monticello Hills Wind. One member is married to a town board member who the article suggests will vote on the plan, and the other now chairs the Planning Board charged with reviewing the proposed zoning.
The reader may wonder, even with the conflicts above, if the windmill foes really represent the views of the town or of their neighbors. Larry wrote that “over 200 people signed a petition objecting to the project.” I found a petition from 2013 signed by 192 people (anyone who had signed twice had their second signature eliminated). Half were not residents of Richfield – one gave an address in Arizona stating they would like to buy a summer house in Richfield Springs!
There are 2,500 people in Richfield over 25 years of age (per the Comp Plan), so from Larry’s letter it appears that approximately 4 percent of the people of Richfield signed his petition against Monticello Hills Wind. How about the number of households against Monticello Hills Wind? Just over 2 percent. Although this is about zoning in Richfield, how about we add in those in West Winfield and Columbia who signed the petition? Less than 4 percent.
As described in the newspaper article, and in numerous letters and public comments, the proposed zoning restricts business and is unpopular in many quarters. Your newspaper, in a follow-up editorial, was onto something when it said that the proposed zoning “should be put on hold, at least for the time being, until the community’s will can be dispassionately determined, and the plan revised to reflect it”.
Doyle is general manager of the Monticello Hills Wind project.