windmill would look good here: Brunswick farmer fights
for green power.
Brunswick farmer wants to harness wind energy, but runs afoul
of town zoning restrictions
Headwell climbed a hillside on his farm in Brunswick, while
explaining at length the technologies he believes will enable
pioneering farmers to preserve their land and the environment,
and at the same time turn a profit. His intention is that
Misty Hills Farm, which he bought with his wife in 2001, will
act as an exemplar of these new technologies working in congress.
I’m gonna win the New York State Fair with this hay here,”
he said, and swung his arms across the open field, indicating
a vast potential. It was windy on the hilltop, and he smiled.
“You see? You see how windy it is up here?”
Since last year, Headwell has been fighting with Brunswick
town officials for permission to add to his farm the latest
in high-tech agricultural tools: a windmill.
The proposed windmill would sit atop a hill on his farm, 750
feet from the nearest house. It would feed 60 amps of electricity
through an underground line to his new, 23,000-square-foot
horse barn. He estimates that wind energy could satisfy 70
percent of his farm’s $900-a-month electricity usage. A grant
is available through New York State Energy Research and Development
Authority that will cover 60 percent of the cost for purchasing
and installing the structure. Plus, he plans to install solar
panels to cover the remaining power usage, again utilizing
a state grant. It seems to Headwell to be a win-win situation.
power and solar power working together,” he exclaimed. “It
is a whole system.”
It was in just a matter of days, he said, after coming across
a NYSERDA Web page last year about wind power grants, that
he had his preparations in order and began the paperwork.
Then he went to the town to apply for a building permit; that’s
when plans for the proposed windmill, which would stand at
130 feet tall, hit a snag.
situation was, it was over our height requirement,” said Brunswick
Town Supervisor Phil Herrington. Brunswick building code restricts
the construction of structures above 40 feet. The town felt
that the windmill ought to be treated in the same way that
any tall structure, such as a cell tower, would be.
two years ago,” Herrington said, “they wanted to put a cell
tower in the same area, and the people in Brunswick went crazy.
We got in the middle of a legal situation. Eventually, they
withdrew that proposal.” So when the application for Headwell’s
windmill came along, Brunswick Superintendent of Utilities
and Inspections, John Krieger, turned it down cold.
In a July 3 letter, Brunswick town lawyer Thomas Cioffi informed
Headwell of the town’s decision, based on local zoning restrictions.
Headwell hadn’t even been able to appear before the Zoning
Board to make his case.
of the Zoning Board told me they were excited about my project;
that they had never seen anything like it,” Headwell said.
“But what happened was Cioffi usurped their power. What he
did was speed up the process of his own opinion.”
In the letter, Cioffi explained that the proposed windmill
was not included in zoning provisions for agricultural land
and that it also “far exceeds the maximum permitted for height”
allowable for new structures. “In my view, the proposed wind
generator is neither a ‘usual agricultural pursuit,’ a ‘usual
agricultural accessory’ or a ‘usual agricultural accessory
building.’ Wind generators are not common or usual structures
on farms in this Town or this County. The mere fact that you
want to use such a structure on your farm does not, in and
of itself, make it a usual [emphasis his] agricultural
pursuit . . .”
But Misty Hills is located inside a state designated Agricultural
District, and is protected by the state Department of Agriculture
and Markets law. If Ag and Markets decides that a windmill
on protected farmland is, after all, a ‘usual agricultural
pursuit,’ it doesn’t matter what local zoning says. The windmill
Although windmills are ‘new’ to farms in New York state, in
January of this year, Ag and Markets released an opinion on
a case very similar to Headwell’s. Cogi Farms, located in
Pawling, is also a commercial horse-boarding operation. It
also applied for a permit to build a windmill, to supplement
its power usage, and ran into trouble with local zoning. In
the end, Ag and Markets said Cogi Farms could build the structure.
Headwell wonders why Brunswick officials were unaware of the
Ag and Markets law and the Cogi Farms decision.
was aware of the Agriculture and Markets law provisions,”
Cioffi said. “There is no way we could have been aware of
that [Cogi Farms] because that’s another farm in another part
of the state. We had no knowledge of that. So we contacted
Ag and Markets and asked them about it, and they said that
those kind of opinions are done on a case-by-case basis.”
John Rusnica, an associate attorney with Ag and Markets, agreed
that every decision is made on its individual merits. But,
he said, many municipalities are having trouble keeping track
of the changing laws and that Brunswick is no different.
[Cioffi] just wasn’t familiar with what our law provided,”
Rusnica said. “I have done a number of continuing legal educational
programs where we had local officials come in with planning,
zoning board members, along with municipal attorneys, to educate
them. But we are still getting towns that aren’t familiar
with our law.”
Headwell agreed that Cioffi wasn’t familiar with what the
Ag and Markets law provided; he said that he had to provide
that information to Cioffi.
Ag and Markets has yet to make a decision as to Misty Hills.
“As long as the energy produced is used for the farm and not
the residence, it would be applicable,” said Jessica Chittenden,
spokeswoman for Ag and Markets. But, she said, they haven’t
been asked to become officially involved, yet. Headwell said
that he has left multiple messages with the department.
For Headwell, the misunderstanding and apparent ignorance
of the provisions has been a time-consuming and costly setback.
Between lost energy production, excess paperwork and an unnecessary
land survey, he figures he has lost $5,000. But it isn’t the
money lost that bothers him, he said, it is the resistance
of the town to embrace new technologies. Technologies that
he believes can help save the small farmer.
town’s focus,” he said, “is all wrong.”
Tuesday (Aug. 25), Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings
released his downtown safety initiative. Does
the program involve curbing gang violence, getting
guns off the street, or increasing police patrols
in sensitive neighborhoods? No, it is not that
kind of safety, stupid! The plan would give drunken
people further reign over Albany during peak drinking
hours, shutting down two blocks on North Pearl
Street to cars on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
How serious was the issue to begin with? “We’ve
had some minor incidents of people walking across
this street, walking between cars, with some of
the traffic here at night because it’s darker,
it’s dangerous,” Jennings told reporters at a
Day is Halloween
group of friends dressed as zombies were arrested
in Minneapolis this week for carrying “simulated
weapons of mass destruction.” The friends were
taking part in a “zombie dance party” and were
wearing backpacks with stereo pieces and wires
hanging out of them. Police said the revelers
“were arrested for behavior that was suspicious
and disturbing.” Police also noted the group was
intimidating people with their “ghoulish” makeup.
They were not charged for creating fear of a zombie
Park Republican Chairman Michael Lisuzzo insisted
last week that Kirsten Gillibrand does not live
full-time in New York’s 20th congressional district,
claiming that Gillibrand keeps an apartment in
Manhattan. Sweeney’s office insisted that Lisuzzo
was speaking for himself and not the campaign.
However, the Sweeney campaign is now sporting
campaign literature that pictures a Manhattan
apartment, and says, “Gillibrand wants you to
believe she calls our area home—but the FACTS
tell a different story.” However, Gillibrand has
produced evidence establishing that she has lived
in Columbia County for two years. On the other
hand, Sweeney was not a resident of the district
when he was elected in 1998.
of Arbor Hill want their library in a safe place; residents
of West Hill want a library, period
Excitement, doubt and resignation simultaneously hung over
a room at 200 Henry Johnson Blvd. last Thursday night. Representatives
of the Albany Public Library presented their plans for an
Arbor Hill branch and took comment from the public. For a
number of meeting attendees, the fact that the board has a
plan to build a library in Arbor Hill was all that mattered.
Arbor Hill hasn’t had a functioning library for a number of
decades. But a great many of the attendees had concerns, especially
Ward 4 Common Councilwoman Barbara Smith.
Smith and a number of Arbor Hill residents are worried that
the APL has already decided on a location—Henry Johnson Boulevard—for
the library. And that location, they say, is unfriendly to
pedestrians and dangerous for children. “It would be so much
more positive for Arbor Hill to have a library within its
borders, as opposed to on the edge of it,” said Smith. “The
Henry Johnson location is not pedestrian-friendly. It is a
thoroughfare for cars, not for humans.”
Smith would like to see the Arbor Hill branch located in the
old St. Joseph’s Academy building on the corner of North Swan
and Second streets. The APL’s facilities committee’s rules
for selecting a property state that it would be preferable
to own the property where a library is to be located, “to
protect taxpayer investments.” St. Joseph’s academy is owned
by the Albany Housing Authority.
said that the library has successfully had branch locations
in properties not owned by the city and can do it again. However,
library public information officer John Cirrin noted that
besides instances where the library has been forced to relocate
because of a landlord, there are other problems. “There have
been certain physical problems—leakages, water, things like
that—and issues about who was responsible and response times.
Also, we have to grow.” Cirrin insisted that building on the
Henry Johnson lot would give them a chance to do that. Library
officials assert they are taking the Henry Johnson site’s
traffic problems into account.
happy it’s going to be somewhere in Arbor Hill,” says Ward
3 Common Councilman Corey Ellis. “My being councilman, I see
both sides. The way I see it, people in Arbor Hill would like
to see it at St. Joseph’s and people in West Hill would like
to see it on Henry Johnson. Someone is not going to be happy.”
Residents of West Hill favor a branch on Henry Johnson in
Arbor Hill, but West Hill Councilman Willard Timmons and West
Hill Neighborhood Association President Leane Paeglow both
said they don’t want a library near their community;
they want one in it.
During the Thursday meeting, West Hill residents were told
that there was some initial interest in creating a West Hill
library, but things did not go as planned. Library officials
told the audience that other branches were scheduled to be
closed, thereby freeing up money for a West Hill branch, but
residents of those communities “put their feet down” when
they learned they were to lose their library branch. Those
residents got their way, and as a result, the money that would
have been available is instead being used to fund the libraries
that were to be closed.
Paeglow said, “It’s just another slap in the face to West
Hill, the city saying: ‘You are orphaned! We don’t care about
you. You are not part of Albany.’ ”
Smith said that the library issue is pitting two not-well-off
communities against each other. She noted that the areas of
Arbor Hill and West Hill both desperately need libraries,
more than other communities. “In Albany as a whole, 20 percent
of the population is aged 0 to 18, and in Arbor Hill and West
Hill, 39 percent of the population is aged 0 to 18.”
Cirrin said that library locations are not designed to serve
simply one community. He said the main branch serves four
to five communities.
Paeglow, however, insisted that the realities of living in
West Hill do not make it reasonable for residents to walk
to the Arbor Hill library. She said the feud between uptown
and downtown gangs makes it quite dangerous. However, Paeglow
added that, realistically, she blames herself and the other
residents of West Hill for being overlooked for a library
“I don’t have community members who really care about where
they live. The ones that do, I’m just starting to get them
to come out. Folks in West Hill have given up. They think,
‘Why bother? It’s gonna get ruined; it’s gonna get robbed.’
And that’s what has happened. The community has gotten tired
with the prostitutes and the drugs, and is consequently not
Library officials are still looking for public input before
they finalize plans for the libraries. Cirrin said it is not
impossible to consider a West Hill branch but noted the more
cost involved in the library referendum, the more likely it
is voters will say ‘no’ when the referendum comes to a vote
in December. Smith, however, is not ready to give up. “We
will continue to engage with the library board as long as
there is something to be discussed. I feel that where there
is life there is hope.”
mom-to-be: Ani DiFranco speaks at NOW convention.
its 40th year, the National Organization for Women visits
its roots in New York
40th anniversary of the National Organization for Women was
celebrated during its annual national conference last weekend,
held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Albany. The weekend
began with a Young Feminist Summit, which ended on Friday
with an awards presentation that recognized people and groups
making unmistakable strides in the modern feminist movement.
Among the award recipients were the Allegheny County Girls
as Grantmakers, a group of Pittsburgh high-school students
who organized a “girlcott” of a line of offensive Abercrombie
& Fitch T-shirts, eventually getting the retailer to take
the T-shirts off their shelves. Brian Collins, who represented
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, was also an award recipient
Ani Difranco received an award for being a national voice
for the feminist movement and for her work with her Righteous
Babe Foundation, which supports grassroots efforts, lesbian
and gay causes and reproduction rights, among many other things.
The singer accepted her award and used the occasion to make
a special announcement.
was suggested to me,” Difranco said, “that I take this opportunity,
amongst such righteous babe-ishness, to make a little announcement,
and that is that I am on a little journey now into the epicenter
of women’s power, which is to say that I’m 12 weeks pregnant.”
Her announcement was met by rousing cheers from the mostly
female audience. Difranco then recited a poem she wrote, called
“Reprieve,” about war, society and human nature, pausing in
the middle to wipe tears from her eyes and whisper into the
mic, “It’s the hormones.”
NOW, which is currently the largest organization of feminists
in the United States with 500,000 members, was started as
a political-action organization in 1966 by 28 people, including
New Yorker and The Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan,
who became the first president of the organization. (Friedan
passed away earlier this year.)
This year’s conference was held in Albany because, according
to Marcia Pappas, president of the New York state chapter
of NOW, “the National Organization for Women was started in
New York state by a New Yorker—we couldn’t have had it anywhere
One of the biggest challenges for today’s feminist movement,
said Pappas, is “helping younger people to understand that
we have to be vigilant to protect our rights that we already
have, but to also move forward to secure rights that we don’t
have yet. I think that’s always the biggest challenge to any
One way NOW is addressing this challenge is by holding the
young feminist summits to give young people a venue in which
they can come together to learn and talk about issues that
affect them. “[We want] to empower them to go back into their
communities,” Pappas said, “[and] have the skills to be able
to make social change, and hopefully they will continue to
do that kind of work that needs to be done to make those changes,
and they also . . . know that they can come to [NOW] and be
a part of something that’s greater than themselves and understand
how coming together in a critical mass makes a huge difference
in the way that we change the world.”
Changing the world, as Pappas knows well, also requires getting
the right people into office. As far as the upcoming elections
go, the NOW New York state Political Action Committee supports
Eliot Spitzer for governor, and just yesterday (Wednesday,
July 26) the organization announced its backing of Mark Green
for attorney general.
Pappas says of Green, “Mark has always been good on women’s
issues. Many candidates think that all we care about are reproductive
rights, and that, of course, is very important, but Mark knows
about all of the issues. He knows about matrimonial issues.
He knows about child custody issues. He knows about issues
around sexual assault and domestic violence. He is very aware
of what goes on for women, not just for abortion rights but
also about other issues that are really important and that
affect women every single day.”
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
losse ends this week-