A lawsuit against the Centerville Town Board’s local law regulating windparks was dismissed in state Supreme Court this week.
Acting State Supreme Court Judge Michael L. Nenno dismissed the lawsuit.
Attorney Gary Abraham of Allegany, who represented a half dozen Centerville residents opposed to the local law, said a decision on whether to appeal Judge Nenno’s dismissal is expected to be made next Tuesday.
The town of Centerville is in the northwest corner of Allegany County. Supervisor Frank Sardina said the reaction to the dismissal of the lawsuit was “one of celebration and relief.” The town had studied the local law for more than a year before it was approved, he said.
A Citizens Committee investigated the proposal from Nobel Environmental Power, of Bad Axe, Mich., before making its recommendations to the Town Board.
The supervisor said passage of the local law was important because without it, “the town had no authority to regulate these things.”
Nobel plans to build as many as 67 wind turbines generating a total of 100 megawatts of power. If the company switches to a more powerful turbine, fewer wind turbines will be needed, Mr. Sardina said.
Without the local law, the town might not see any incentives from the developer, he said.
With the local law, the town will be able to negotiate a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with Nobel. A starting point for negotiations is expected to be in the range of $4,000 per megawatt, or about $400,000 a year.
The supervisor said any contract with Nobel will contain provisions that any company Nobel might sell the windpark to would be bound by the same agreements.
Attorney Daniel Spitzer of Hudson Russ, who represented the Centerville Town Board in the lawsuit, said, “The petitioners just don’t want windmills in the town and tried to impose their views on the community.”
Mr. Spitzer said the local law “just sets up a process. Whether or not there will be windmills in Centerville is a decision that is a long way off.”
He said there are three important types of “setbacks” and rules for windmills in the local law: 1) 500 feet from the nearest boundary line; 2) 1,000 feet from the nearest off-site residence; and 3) noise cannot exceed 50 decibels at the nearest residence.
“Before this local law, there were no setbacks and no rules” because the town has no zoning laws, Mr. Spitzer said.
“We are very pleased the judge upheld the right of the town to make a decision based on what was best for the community,” Mr. Spitzer commented.
Mr. Sardina said, “The next step is for the developer to submit an application to the town to build a windpark.” Then, the town will undertake a environmental impact statement under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
Mr. Abraham said the property owners who filed the lawsuit were concerned “the Town Board had enacted the local law with setbacks and noise limits based on information they got from the wind energy company. They didn’t look at the impacts.”
Mr. Abraham said the 50 decibel noise level was the equivalent of three or four people carrying on a normal conversation in a room.
“Would you want that noise in your bedroom at night?” he asked. “There are health effects from sleeplessness. They should have looked at these. We just said they needed to take a hard look at the potential impacts.”
Mr. Abraham said there was also concern about the inaudible low-frequency sounds emitted by wind turbines.
When you create a setback from the wind turbines, it should be to the nearest property line, not the nearest residence, Mr. Abraham said.
By Rick Miller
Olean Times Herald
21 April 2007
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