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August 10, 2013

 

Landowner wants out of TCI lease

Solon man asking company to release him, saying he signed when ill

LandownerJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Derek Richards of Solon stands on his property Thursday. Richards owns 30 acres of land atop Syrian Hill Road and signed a lease agreement with wind turbine firm TCI Renewables on April 4 of last year, a move he now says he was not in the right frame of mind to make.

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

SOLON — Landowner Derek Richards wants the United Kingdom-based firm TCI Renewables to release him from a contract with the company that he says he signed under duress a year ago, he wrote in a letter to the company on July 29.
Richards owns 30 acres of land atop Syrian Hill Road and signed a lease agreement with TCI April 4 of last year, a move he now says he was not in the right frame of mind to make.
TCI plans to build a 44-turbine wind farm in Solon, Truxton, Homer and Cortlandville by 2015. The project has faced considerable opposition in past months and a public hearing on the project in June drew much outcry, with landowners faulting TCI’s business practices and questioning the viability of a wind farm in the area.
The future of the project is uncertain, and the public comment period on the draft Environmental Impact Statement ended Friday.
Richards now wants the company to release him as a sign of “good faith” and recognition that he was ill when he signed the contract. If he is not released, Richards said he intends to speak out publicly against the project, something that is prohibited in the terms of his lease.
TCI Project Manager Gareth McDonald said Tuesday that he could not discuss the particulars of Richards’ case or any lease.
“We treat our relationships with landowners very seriously,” said McDonald. “And we also treat our relationships with confidentiality in accordance with the terms of our agreement with landowners; therefore, the contract prevents us from discussing individual cases.”
In a letter to the board of directors of TCI, Richards faults McDonald for driving him into town last year to sign and notarize the contract, when he was bedridden with an ulcerated foot, a complication of diabetes.
Richards’ letter states he was on antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medication and was borderline septic at the time of McDonald’s visit, but that McDonald took him in a car to sign the contract and on a tour of his property, despite how ill he was. The foot was amputated three weeks later.
Richards says that he would not have signed the lease if he was in his right frame of mind and that his condition should have been apparent to McDonald.
Richards and his girlfriend, Susan Wildman, had decided they were not going to sign, but he says he “wasn’t up to par” when McDonald visited him last April when Wildman was not home.
“I wasn’t how I am now,” Richards said at his home Monday. “I shouldn’t have signed because I was sick.”
McDonald said Monday the company has received the letter, but declined to comment on what action TCI would take.
Richards also faults the way the contract was written because he says he made it clear to McDonald at the time of signing that he would only consider the top field of his property for leasing. But an amendment in the final lease states that Richards “prefers” the top field be used.
Richards said the wording does not reflect what he intended, and he also faults the timing of McDonald’s visit for coming at a time when his health was so precarious.
Wildman said she was very surprised when Richards told her last year that he had signed with TCI. She says he was in no condition to sign.
“For two weeks he didn’t do anything but sleep,” she said.
The letter is the third request that Richards has made to TCI asking to be released from the contract, with two other verbal requests, and he is not sure what will happen.
If TCI does not release him, Richards is not sure what his next course of action is, but he said he will not give up.
“I am still going to pursue getting them to do right by me,” he said.

 

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