Previous vote regarding wind project not legally binding, supervisor says
By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau
At a special meeting Tuesday night, the Cherry Valley town Board voted unanimously to adopt a 90-day moratorium on major development.
The moratorium will allow the town board enough time to adopt rules to regulate Reunion Power’s proposed wind farm on East Hill, according to Cherry Valley Town Supervisor Thomas Garretson.
The company, which is based in Manchester, Vt., has proposed erecting as many as 24 turbines along the ridge east of the village of Cherry Valley.
“It isn’t the 12-month moratorium I was hoping for,” Garretson said Wednesday morning, “but it should give us time to put a wind ordinance in place.”
To an extent, Tuesday’s vote reverses a vote conducted July 31 after a public hearing attended by more than 200 people.
That night, after hearing from scores of speakers, most of whom wanted a 12-month moratorium, the three-member Cherry Valley Town Board apparently voted down the proposal. However, the minutes from that meeting indicate that Garretson’s motion to enact a 12-month moratorium was never seconded, so the subsequent two-to-one vote against the measure was not binding.
“There wasn’t a legal vote that night,” he said.
The town board has amended its minutes to reflect what actually happened in the confusion at the end of July 31 meeting, Garretson said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the proposed moratorium was amended to change the time-frame from 12 months to 90 days and was supported by councilmen Fabian Bresset and James Johnson as well as Garretson, Town Clerk Mary Beth Flint said Wednesday.
The town board also agreed to retain environmental engineers LaBella Associates, of Rochester, to advise the town board on its wind ordinance.
“I think they’ll be very helpful to us,” Garretson said. “They have a lot of experience with wind projects.”
Under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), municipalities are allowed to bill developers for the cost of hiring consultants. Garretson said Cherry Valley will do so, as the consultants would not be needed without a pending project.
The 90-day compromise moratorium was praised Wednesday by Reunion consultant Marion Trieste.
“It should take the pressure off the town board and allow them to come up with an ordinance that protects the environment and makes the rules clear to everyone,” she said. “I think it’s a very good thing.”
Andrew Minnig of Cherry Valley, a member of the Cherry Valley Advocates group that has opposed the wind farm, said opponents will use the 90 days to scrutinize any proposed ordinance, addressing issues such as noise pollution and how far from property lines the wind turbines may be situated.
Asked if he thought the wind towers will ever be built, Minnig said, “I think the company is going to have a hard time here because we have an educated, active community and we want to know the details.”‘
Garretson said the town board’s special meeting was scheduled to be followed by a town Planning Board meeting. However, Minnig and Barbara Potter, of Cherry Valley, said the Planning Board was unable to muster a quorum for the session.
Residents have been debating the pros and cons of siting wind mills in the town for years. Earlier, another firm, Global Winds Harvest, tried to erect turbines on two ridges in Cherry Valley, but eventually left town.
According to David Little, Reunion’s project manager, East Hill, which overlooks the Mohawk Valley, has some of the best wind in New York state. The company estimates that its proposed 24 turbines would produce enough electricity to power 37,000 homes.
Project opponents, including Minnig, have criticized the size of the turbines, which stand about 400 feet tall to the top of the blade, as well as possible environmental risks of the project.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding