A group of citizens is taking legal action in State Supreme Court in Cattaraugus County to force the Town of Centerville to study the environmental impact of its “Wind Energy Facilities” law governing wind farms.
The law was drawn up by Dan Spitzer, a Hodgson Russ attorney who has written similar laws for other communities in New York State that have wind farm proposals before them. He is paid with escrow funds provided by Noble Environmental Power, a Connecticut- based renewable energy company.
The company has built wind farms around the state and is at work on two Western New York projects that will result in about 135 wind turbines in Wethersfield and Bliss, and has obtained agreements from a number of Centerville property owners in preparation for construction of at least 60 wind turbines.
Company representatives also have visited with property owners and officials in nearby Farmersville, where a similar law written by Spitzer will be aired at a public hearing at 7 p.m. today.
“If these people win, the environment will be significantly harmed,” said Spitzer, adding he doesn’t understand the purpose of the lawsuit.
He said Centerville has no zoning ordinance, so without a law there is nothing to prevent a developer from simply taking out a building permit for a wind farm, where blades from the turbines can reach as high as 450 or 500 feet into the sky to take advantage of higher winds.
“These people don’t want wind towers – they simply disagree with the Town Board’s wish to consider the project. That is what elections are for,” Spitzer said of the landowner group, Centerville’s Concerned Citizens.
He said the Centerville law requires an application process that will then trigger an environmental review of impacts such as noise, property values, visual effects and other issues before the town can issue a permit.
The citizens’ lawsuit seeks a restraining order and asks the law be struck down. It alleges the Town Board improperly refused to consider impacts raised by the residents until the wind farm application is under way and sent only one of two versions of the law containing different setback restrictions to the Allegany County Planning Board for review.
Centerville Supervisor Frank Sardina said only the final draft of the law was sent to the Planning Board after Noble provided 1,000 feet as the ideal setback to prevent interference between turbines. He said he believes the citizens group consists of only half a dozen people who want to stop the project, which is part of several others that make up a line along windy ridges at about 2,000 feet in elevation stretching from Eagle through Farmersville.
“I don’t hear any reason to stop the project, and I’d be the first one to do it,” said Sardina, referring to the extensive work of a 10-member committee containing two board members and several farmers.
Gary Abraham, the Centerville Concerned Citizens lawyer who filed the lawsuit, said he is awaiting a hearing date to be set by acting State Supreme Court Justice Michael Nenno. Nenno did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
By Kathy Kellogg
22 March 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding