GASPORT — Hartland Town Supervisor Ross Annable won reelection last week, but 407 votes, or 44.63 percent of all votes cast in the supervisor’s race, were cast for a write-in candidate, according to unofficial election results.
The large number of write-in votes came after a recently formed grassroots group, Protect our Rural Communities, which is fighting a proposed 1,500-acre solar project in Hartland and Newfane, decided to run a write-in campaign pitting member Mike Outten against Annable.
“For two weeks of steady campaigning we received an extremely positive showing for a write-in campaign,” Outten said in a written statement after the Nov. 5 election. “I want to thank all of our volunteers and all of the voters who came out and supported us by casting their votes as to where they stand on this issue. We came to the people with the truth; and the people want the truth especially when it pertains to their way of life. ... There wasn’t time enough to reach every home to inform them of the magnitude of the proposed project that is being pushed on us by a select few.”
Annable noted that the town board is exploring the proposed Ridge View solar project and doing its “due diligence on a very important issue to the town.”
“We’re not on one side or the either,” Annable said of the board members. “We’re at a learning stage.”
Annable noted that several public meetings have been held to air the proposal by EDF Renewables, the meetings were advertised in both the Union-Sun & Journal and the Buffalo News, and another meeting, open house style, will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Hartland Volunteer Fire Company hall.
“We were doing our due diligence to put this proposal out to the town,” Annable said.
Annable added that he has heard from a number of townspeople who support the project, and says he believes a “silent majority” in the town feel the same way.
“There is a silent majority out there because I’ve spoken to them,” he said. “There are people that support solar, but they are not joining a group to voice their support.”
Outten has declared a “war” in the town.
“We love where we live and are willing to fight to protect our farmland and rural way of life. This battle may have been lost by a mere 98 votes, but the war is on to save Hartland,” he said.
Outten argues that an industrial solar project does not belong in an agricultural-residential community.
Barbara Outten, Mike Outten’s wife, previously told the Union-Sun & Journal that some of the group’s concerns about the project include the damage it would cause to farmland and the pollution the solar panels might cause.