Town supervisor Tom Garretson received an early Christmas present last week when the Cherry Valley town board adopted one of, if not the most, stringent local wind ordinance in the state and at the same time pulled the plug on Reunion Power’s plans for the East Hill Wind Farm.
The board was split 2-1 on a motion to adopt the local law. Councilman Fabian Bressett, in the last meeting of his 33-year tenure on the board, cast the lone dissenting vote.
“I got my Christmas present. That’s all I wanted for Christmas,” Garretson said after the meeting.
The ordinance creates a review and permitting process and sets minimum standards for the siting, approval, construction and operation of wind energy facilities within the town.
Garretson called in Syracuse-based environmental attorney Tom Fucillo, who helped the planning board write the ordinance, to walk the board through the final steps in adopting the law.
Fucillo, a former Department of Environmental Conservation attorney, prepared the environmental assessment form for the State Environmental Quality Review of the ordinance that is required when enacting a local land use law.
He also prepared two resolutions for the board. One was for determining a negative declaration in the environmental review and a second for the adoption of the local law.
Fucillo was careful to lay out not only the groundwork and reasoning behind the law, but the need for it. He also made certain the board’s negative declaration indicating no adverse impacts on the environment would be published in the DEC’s Environmental Notice Bulletin.
A motion to adopt the ordinance was made by Bressett and seconded by Jim Johnson.
“I want it known that this board very much supports a wind energy project,” said Garretson. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get one. I’m very satisfied. It puts us right where we want to be. I would rather adopt a conservative wind ordinance and err on the side of caution and work from there than put something in place we would regret later.”
The adoption of the ordinance was met with loud applause from people in the audience, some of whom having been regularly attending meetings since Reunion’s forerunner Global Winds Harvest first announced its plans for a wind farm more than four years ago.
After the meeting, Bressett said his primary objection to the law was the setbacks from property lines and residences.
“It’s a very good ordinance. The only thing is the setbacks are a little too much. Outside of that, it’s a good ordinance,” he said.
Reunion Power’s project manager David Little, who said earlier the ordinance would make it impossible to develop the wind on East Hill, expressed his disappointment at the board’s action.
“We worked very hard. I think we did a lot of good things,” he said.
Little said he did not know what Reunion’s future plans are now, but that they will have to meet with their partner Edison Mission Energy to examine their options.
“We have work to do,” Little added.
Andy Minnig, a spokesperson for the Advocates of Cherry Valley, which opposed Reunion’s plan, said he was pleased with the board’s decision.
“Those of us who may have wondered at times whether there was any point to showing up, meeting after meeting, have been rewarded with a resounding yes,” he said.
Minnig and the Advocates know that Cherry Valley may end up with a wind energy project, but he said they want it to be community-based and not a large corporate one.
“We will not advocate or support any wind farm that harms the residential or natural environment of Cherry Valley, or negatively impacts its neighbors. It must also adequately compensate any one that might need to, or want to relocate as a result. In our opinion, that must be the bottom line given to any developer doing business here in Cherry Valley,” he said. “We now have to become proactively engaged in developing a renewable energy program that offers everyone some attractive alternatives. Industrial scale turbines do not have to be part of the mix, and no one has to suffer.”
In other business, the board accepted Fabian Bressett’s anticipated letter of resignation and acknowledged his more than three decades of service on the town board.
Garretson, who is finishing his first year as supervisor, said it has been a tough year and “Fabian has made it a little easier on me.
The board also selected Mark Cornwall to serve the remainder of Bressett’s unexpired term.
Cornwell will be formally appointed and begin serving in January.
By Jim Austin
[Click here to read the ordinance – Ed.]
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