RICHMONDVILLE – Renewal of the one-year permit for a temporary Reunion Power wind measuring tower on Warnerville Hill will be up to the village Zoning Board of Appeals, town codes officer Gene DeMarco said.
Schoharie Valley Watch, a group opposing industrial wind turbines in the area, also called last week for the existing permit to be revoked, alleging it doesn’t meet zoning law criteria.
The current permit expires Thursday, according to DeMarco, and he said he has no plans to revoke it based on the citizens group’s contentions.
“I reviewed it and stand by my decision to give the initial permit,” he said.
DeMarco does agree with Schoharie Valley Watch that an extension of the permit is now up to the ZBA to decide.
“I would deny it, due to the fact that it’s not in my purview,” DeMarco said.
Reunion Power is applying for another one-year permit to continue measuring wind and weather data from the tower, said Steve Eisenberg, the Vermont-based company’s managing director.
“I applied for renewal,” Eisenberg said. “It would be very strange in the industry to not have more than 12 months of data,” Eisenberg said, regarding any plans to pursue a windpower project.
A public hearing on Reunion Power’s application for a one-year extension for their tower has been set for 5:30 p.m. May 6 in the village Municipal Building.
According to town zoning law, the ZBA may grant an extension “for a period not exceeding one year for nonconforming uses incident to housing and construction projects,” town Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Bruce Loveys said. “Proof of hardship” must also be shown to back up the application, Loveys said.
Besides concerns raised by Schoharie Valley Watch Co-Directors Bob Nied and Don Airey about alleged lack of soil testing and engineering data regarding the 197-foot tower on the David Huse farm, the group argues that it does not fit the definition of a temporary structure because it is not directly associated with “housing or construction project.”
Eisenberg declined to address SVW’s statements about the permit because “there’s no foundation there.”
Concerning the contention that the tower was not eligible for a permit because no application has been filed to construct a windpower project, DeMarco said he believes he had the authority to issue the original permit, since the tower is intended to gather data for a feasibility study.
“To me it’s splitting hairs,” said DeMarco. “The way I read the law, I have the right to give a permit for a nonconforming use.”
Schoharie Valley Watch has also raised concerns following the collapse of a Reunion Power testing tower in the Otsego County town of Cherry Valley, a few miles west of Sharon Springs.
A second Reunion tower in Cherry Valley also recently had an upper section bend over, Eisenberg confirmed.
DeMarco said the construction and anchoring methods of the Cherry Valley and Richmondville towers are different. He said the Richmondville tower is anchored to steel cemented into rock, and he has no safety or structural concerns after inspecting it recently.
The damaged towers on the Cherry Valley East Hill site will not be replaced, Eisenberg said, and a third tower there will also be taken down.
Three years of permits for those towers have expired, according to Cherry Valley Supervisor Thomas Garretson.
“It’s not necessary to get more data,” Eisenberg said. He refused to comment on what plans the company has for the Cherry Valley site.
The company had proposed building about 24 wind turbines in Cherry Valley, but the project has drawn considerable opposition.
Cherry Valley enacted a relatively stringent law, which included restrictions that wind turbine towers be set back at least 2,000 feet from any residential structure.
“I haven’t heard anything from Reunion since we passed the local law in December 2006,” Garretson said.
By R. J. Kelly
28 April 2008