CHERRY VALLEY- Town supervisor Tom Garretson made it clear to Reunion Power that his first concern is the residents of Cherry Valley and not Reunion Power’s ability to put a wind farm on East Hill.
During Thursday night’s meeting in which the town board unanimously agreed to schedule a public hearing on a proposed wind ordinance, Garrestton said they needed a law “thats going to protect the town. That comes first.” He went on to say that if one developer finds they can not work within the confines of the town’s proposed wind ordinance then perhaps another developer can.
Earlier last week, Reunion Power’s project manager David Little sent a letter to Garretson and town councilmen Fabian Bressett and Jim Johnson urging them to reject three specific requirements in the wind ordinance that would prevent a wind farm on the East Hill.
“I wanted to make you aware of serious concerns that Reunion has with regards to the ordinance as it stands today. In essence, the current draft amounts to a permanent moratorium,” Little wrote.
Reunion’s project manager claimed noise limits and the required setbacks from property lines and residences was “by far in excess of standards contained in any scientifically-based ordinances or local laws that have been passed by at least fifteen other communities within the state of New York.”
The ordinance, he wrote, “would make it impossible for any developer to site even a single windmill on the East Hill.”
But Garretson introduced the local wind ordinance unchanged and read a letter from the planning board which described the ordinance as providing “a strong basis to appropriately control wind energy systems in our town and to balance the benefits of such systems with the potential impacts of such systems on the citizens of this town and the environment.”
The planning board’s letter also specifically addressed the 1,200-foot setback from property lines and 2,000-foot setback from residences for the wind turbines.
“We believe that the larger setbacks are both reasonable and necessary to protect adjacent landowners from the potential impact of such large industrial projects,” the board’s letter stated.
According to Little’s letter, Reunion proposed a property line setback of 451 feet, or 1.1 times the height of the turbine as measured from the tip of the blade. For the setback from residences, Reunion had proposed 1,200 feet.
“A 2,000-foot setback does not even allow for a dialogue to begin,” Little wrote.
He suggested that if the noise and setback provisions were modified so that the project was allowed to enter the SEQR process, the specific concerns can be properly evaluated and addressed.
But the town board decided not to amend the ordinance and to move ahead with a public hearing.
Garretson said the town board will not accept petitions during the hearing as was done during the public hearing on the moratorium.
“It’s strictly a public hearing where people can come and express their feelings. Any petitions will not be accepted,” he said.
Little said this week that their position remains the same _ the noise level and setbacks far exceed what is reasonable.
He said Reunion took great care with the setbacks and layout which have proven elsewhere to be enough to achieve what the town is after _ protecting the neighbors. The limits in the proposed ordinance are unnecessary and unreasonable.
Reunion, he said, supports the idea of a local wind ordinance, but the one written by the planning board amounts to a “permanent ban on wind power development in the town.”
“When you go over and above, you have to ask what the purpose is. We wanted very much to be able to submit an application and be judged. An ordinance with excessive restrictions doesn’t allow us to be judged,” he said.
Reunion wants to be able to submit a site plan application so it can get to the point of determining what the real issues are and offer to mitigate them. “That’s what a cooperative and balanced process entails,” he said. “We think this is a very good project and is worth the effort.”
Andy Minnig, a spokesperson for the Advocates for Cherry Valley, which opposes the wind farm, said the local wind ordinance developed by the planning board is a very responsible document.
“Our town is taking a very responsible and enlightened approach toward the problem and we applaud them. We have no quarrel with the wind ordinance,” he said.
Minnig said the group’s agreement with the wind ordinance does not change their position that wind turbines are inappropriate for the town.
“Where is it written in stone that every place with good wind has to have a wind farm?” he asked.
Garretson mentioned when the public hearing was scheduled that it was possible the town would have to conduct a second hearing because of changes to the ordinance.
Asked this week if anticipated any changes to the following the hearing, Garretson explained that his research indicated that historically wind ordinances are lengthy and complicated and often undergo enough alteration to require re-introducing the law. Whether that would be the case in Cherry Valley, he did not know.
“I like the law just the way it reads, but time will tell,” he said.
The public hearing on the wind ordinance law is scheduled for Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. in the Community Center.
By Jim Austin, Editor
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