Windhorse Power LLC is facing a stiff wind.
The proposed Beekmantown wind-turbine project of up to 13 windmills was rejected 6-1 by the Clinton County Planning Board at its recent meeting.
To get approval, Windhorse now needs a strong yes vote from the Beekmantown Zoning Board of Appeals.
In a letter to the town, the County Planning Board said it had “too many concerns to consider this a local issue and felt strongly enough that there could be negative impacts from this project that it was disapproved.”
Windhorse Power, headed up by a partnership of John Warshow and Per White-Hansen, has proposed 462-foot turbines for 700 acres of the Rand Hill Road area.
The County Planning Board is required to decide within 30 days, which forced its members to make a decision based on the information they had before them.
“The County Planning Board has several concerns with regard to this project that could not be adequately answered at the Nov. 1 meeting,” the board wrote.
“These concerns led the board to a finding of disapproval, based in large part from a lack of information or knowledge on the actual impacts of the project in several key areas.”
“They don’t feel comfortable just approving it when they don’t have all the information before them,” said Planning Board staff member Glen Cutter.
While Windhorse Power has assured the towers would be sufficiently lighted to avoid air accidents with the turbines, the County Planning Board members were worried about interference with radio waves that could affect radar, radio communication and the airport flight line.
Windhorse submitted the coordinates for each of their turbines to the Federal Aviation Administration, Cutter said.
While the FAA did give its OK, Cutter said Planning Board members wondered if approval was offered with an understanding of the Clinton County Airport, which is slated for a move to the former Air Force Base and major expansion.
“Did they approve it knowing what might happen to our airport,” he asked rhetorically. “It may be alright for right now, but what about down the road?”
Planners wrote: “It is not clear whether there will be an impact on the airport facility, either in its current state of low use or in a more elevated state of use.”
The wind facility is proposed in a residentially zoned area – spurring significant reproof from Beekmantown residents.
Residents and developers have expressed concern that property values could be hurt by the wind turbines.
The County Planning Board also took into account the effect on further development in the area and existing properties and also considered the Plattsburgh area.
“The future development of the Plattsburgh region may be impacted by wind-turbine projects that are located too close to the more urbanized or developed areas of Clinton County,” the board said in its letter.
The board members wrote that they were “concerned that the proposed project is located within a residentially zoned area of the town, where generally the top priority is to protect the character of the residential nature of the area.”
Another issue raised by opponents has been Windhorse’s proposal to introduce the facility as an “essential service.”
In the Beekmantown zoning law, essential uses are listed mainly as power lines, plumbing and similar structures.
The County Planning Board did not base its rejection on this issue.
“It’s not their job to say it is clearly not an essential service,” Cutter said. “They can comment on it, but that’s up to the local board to decide.”
Earlier this year, after Windhorse Power made its proposal, the Town Council put a moratorium on all wind projects, but Windhorse was not covered because its plan was already submitted.
The County Planning Board said in its letter that it “also questions whether the town should first develop wind-energy regulations prior to review of this project, which could be used to regulate the use itself, as well as set aside specific areas of the town for this type of use, through either a rezoning or through an overlay zone.”
The county planners were also concerned about the environmental impact study.
“There are many concerns, which include, but are not limited to, the visual impacts, noise impacts, flickering effects, impacts on the road systems, impacts on character, that may have been addressed, but the town response was not present,” wrote the board.
The Town of the Beekmantown has hired a consultant to review the application. It will be discussed at a Zoning Board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Beekmantown Middle School Auditorium.
The meeting is open to all.
The Zoning Board will decide whether to overturn the county decision at the meeting.
Because of the county’s rejection, a majority vote of five Zoning Board members is required to approve the Windhorse plan.
Instead of voting, Beekmantown zoners could also choose to send a referral to the County Planning Board asking it to review the application again.
By Lucas Blaise
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding