GAINES – The Wind Advisory Committee submitted their official recommendation against wind turbine development to the Gaines Town Board Thursday along with a list of suggestions to include in a local law.
The eight-member volunteer committee was charged by the Town Board to research the possible effects of the 400-foot towers and to report back with a recommendation. After months of deliberation, the committee decided commercial wind energy is not in the best interest of the town in a majority 6-2 vote at the end of November.
Airtricity, an international wind development company based out of Dublin, Ireland, has proposed constructing 55 to 80 wind turbines on land in the Towns of Gaines and Albion. Its North American operations were purchased for $1.4 billion Oct. 4 by E.O.N., a power and gas company based out of Dusseldorf.
Town Supervisor Richard DeCarlo said the ultimate decision about the wind towers will be up to the board. Exactly how that will happen has yet to be determined, considering two of the five town board members – James Kirby and David Kast – have had to recuse themselves because they signed leases with Airtricity. Four voting board members are legally required for a quorum.
In the meantime, the town has hired attorney Daniel Spitzer of Buffalo to draft regulations for the wind turbines. Spitzer is currently working with a number of municipalities in Orleans County, including the Town of Albion, to do the same.
Additionally, DeCarlo said the town will consider extending the wind energy moratorium an additional six months when it comes due in June. The move would give them an entire year to continue researching the issue.
“We have to have requirements in place whether it happens or not,” DeCarlo said, calling the advisory committee’s non-comprehensive list of recommendations “a good benchmark from which the town board can start from.”
Although they will not be able to vote on the issue, Kirby and Kast said they will still be able to speak as private citizens.
“I’ve been invested in this for two plus years,” Kast said.
The committee’s recommendations outline desired requirements for the towers as such: blade height must be 30 feet from the ground, construction will take no longer than one year, the towers shall not interfere with signals for radio, television, cell phone or other personal communication systems, fire training, insurance and water district cost shall be provided and paid for by Airtricity, and the power lines shall run underground to the nearest transmission station.
Any historical impacts should be taken into consideration and Airtricity shall be responsible for any reduction in property values within a 1.5 to 2 mile radius. The committee recommends private agricultural and residential wind towers be permitted for residential or single farm use, but regulated separately.
On the issue of shadow flicker, the committee recommends the towers be shut down during a specific time period until the sun no longer causes the turbine to cast a flicker. They also strongly recommend the towers be fully assessed and taxed despite the state’s efforts to allow wind energy companies tax exemption. To guard against the frequent transfer of ownership from wind company to wind company, the committee advises the town require approval in transfers of 51 percent or more.
In other areas, the committee was divided. Half suggested a maximum tower height of 200 feet while the other half suggested a maximum of 400 feet. Four members recommended 5,000-foot setbacks from property lines while the remaining recommended the distance be 1.5, 2.5 or 3 times the tower height, including the vertical blade.
The report also recommends holding a non-binding referendum vote or straw poll – after multiple attempts to educate the public – so that the town board can make their decision based on how the majority of the community feels about the issue.
Advisory committee secretary, Marilyn Miller, further advised the board to seek the opinion of another attorney besides Spitzer.
“Personally, I’m still adamantly opposed to them,” Miller said.
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