6 Plaintiffs Say Constitutional Rights
Violated By Richfield Wind Farm OK
RICHFIELD – Six property owners have filed suit in state Supreme Court, saying their constitutional rights were violated when the Town of Richfield Planning Board twice approved the Monticello Hills Wind Project. Approvals for the wind project were granted by the planning board in 2011 and 2013, but were struck down both times by state Supreme Court Judge Donald F. Cerio, Jr.
The latest lawsuit, filed in mid-November, seeks an unstated amount of compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs of the litigation, according to the lawyer, Doug Zamelis of Springfield Center.
The six landowners, Michael J. Reid, Kelly A. Auger, Georg-ann Gigliotti, Daniel E. Mezik, William J. Zaleski and Patricia L. Zaleski, allege in their civil complaint that their property rights were taken without due process or compensation when Richfield Planning Board Chairman Donald Urtz, and members Cynthia Andela and R. Joseph Woodrow, voted twice to approve the wind power project with turbines so tall they would prevent the development of the plaintiffs’ properties.
In the decision striking down the second attempt by the Richfield planners to approve the project, Judge Cerio found the landowners’ rights had been taken without due process or compensation.
“The chickens (are) coming home to roost,” Michael J. Reid, lead plaintiff, who owns land near the proposed 492-foot-tall turbines, was quoted as saying in an announcement from Zamelis.
The suit is being brought under Section 1983 of Chapter 42 of the U.S. Code, which give people the right to challenge what they see as violations of their constitutional rights, and to seek money damages, said Zamelis.
“Planning board and other board members usually enjoy immunity from personal and individual liability, but not if their actions under color of law violate someone’s constitutional rights,” he said.