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County reviews laws

The Orleans County Planning Board reviewed two laws for final approval by the Town of Shelby Board Thursday evening.

The laws were drafted by Daniel Spitzer with Hodgson Russ Attorneys of Buffalo and outline regulations for both mining and excavation and wind energy facilities within the municipality, said James Bensley, senior planner with the Orleans County Department of Planning Development.

“It’s still being under discussion and review,” Bensley said. “This is just a policy. This does not approve any wind energy project or any stone quarry project. Those applications would have to be made separately.”

Nearly every town within the county is taking steps to develop their own wind energy facility regulations should they ever be approached by a wind developer, Bensley said.

Airtricity, an international company now owned by E.ON, has proposed 55 to 80 wind towers in the Towns of Gaines and Albion.

Many towns, including Gaines and Albion, are in moratoriums while they research the issue, he said.

The Town of Murray is the only town in the county to have adopted a wind energy law. The Town of Shelby is expected to adopt theirs’ by the end of the year, Bensley said, making them the second.

“It’s ultimately up to the (Shelby) Town Board,” Bensley said. “You need to have something on the books. It’s good they worked to put some suitable regulations in place.”

Although Shelby chose to have their laws reviewed by the 17-member county planning board, others are going through their local planning boards – like Gaines, Bensley said.

Gaines also had a Wind Advisory Committee to investigate the benefits of the 400-foot towers for the community. Their final recommendation was that they are not in the best interest of the community. The Town of Albion Advisory Committee was disbanded before a final recommendation was made. They had, however, started work with Spitzer to draft their own law.

Unlike Shelby, not every town is working on mining and excavating laws, Bensley said.

Laws or policy changes affecting property within 500 feet of state or county highway or municipal boundaries must be submitted for review by the planning board, Bensley said. They look for inconsistencies in the laws, compare the regulations with laws adopted by other towns and make sure it doesn’t violate any New York state statutes.

They also consider the law’s countywide and inter-municipal impact. They must also be easy to understand and administer.

The Orleans County Planning Board recommended approval of Shelby’s mining and excavation law because “the amendments significantly increase the Town Board’s discretion in locating major excavation and mining operations,” the report said.

The majority of respondents in a town-sponsored survey earlier this year favored quarry projects with the least possible impact on residents. The survey also said residents would allow only certain types of mines.

For the wind energy law, the board’s report asks the town to consider a conservation ring, overlay or buffer as a distinct zoning district around the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge to prevent the impact of wind towers on birds. Towers above 120 feet used for agricultural operations would need to have a special use permit.

The report stated a town-sponsored survey earlier this year revealed the majority of respondents encouraged wind energy facilities in Shelby and that the town should work with wind energy companies “to ensure that their projects have the least possible impact on the environment and residents.”

By Nicole Coleman

The Journal-Register

24 December 2007