New York is the windiest state east of the Mississippi River, according to Daniel Spitzer of the Buffalo law firm Hodgson Russ LLP.
To address the growing wind energy concerns of residents in the towns of Albion and Gaines, Spitzer, who represents municipalities and wind energy companies, spoke to members of the two communities Monday evening about windmills, zoning ordinances and other issues that may effect a town’s decision to allow wind farms.
“As a community I think you have a responsibility,” Spitzer said. “Once you decide to regulate you have two options – no and maybe. If you don’t want (windmills) don’t play cute.”
According to Spitzer, a town should say “no” if they have looked at all the options and decided windmills are not something they want, but to say “maybe” if the town does want them because it allows for the town to make the decisions.
Spitzer concentrates his practice in a variety of issues affecting municipalities, including environmental and land use law, Albion Town Councilwoman Jeannette Riley said.
“If you allow windmills they absolutely will change the landscape of the community for at least a generation,” Spitzer said.
For towns considering wind farms, Spitzer advises boards to have a number of ordinances in place because “a good law is one that will cause an investigation into the community values,” he said.
Zoning ordinances for things such as visual impact, noise levels, set backs, the type of allowable blades and shadow flicker are some of the examples Spitzer cited that town boards should look into when considering wind energy.
“What I think is important is that you study it,” he said.
According to Spitzer, the smallest setbacks from property lines that he is aware of is 700 feet while the largest is 1,500 feet.
Currently the Town of Gaines has a one year moratorium in place that expires in June, according to Supervisor Richard DeCarlo, Sr.
“We are looking to eventually extend it another year,” he said. “We have been approached by a wind energy company.”
Town of Albion officials also have plans to reinstate a recently expired moratorium, according to Councilman Timothy Neilans.
“Our biggest concern is what is in the best interest of the community,” he said.
By having a moratorium in place and a public hearing March 12 the town will be better able to come to an informed decision about wind energy, Neilans said.
Both Albion and Gaines town boards have been approached by Airtricity, a wind farm company, and is the reason the towns collaborated on Spitzer’s visit, DeCarlo said.
“The two town boards in the future will hopefully come together to share information,” he said.
By Miranda Vagg
28 February 2007
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