NIAGARA FALLS – The chief executive officer of a wind energy start-up company wants assurances from city leaders that they’re still interested in a windmill project.
Keith Pitman, CEO of Empire State Wind Energy, asked the City Council on Monday to affirm its support for exploring whether power-generating wind turbines could be feasible in Niagara Falls.
“It’s not really possible to do that kind of business deal without firm and clear direction,” Pitman told the Council.
The Oneida-based company, founded by Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano, has signed formal agreements for public-private wind energy projects with about nine other towns in the state, Pitman said.
All five Niagara Falls City Council members said they support at least studying the potential for placing wind turbines in the Falls on old industrial sites or other underused land. Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said he plans to draft a letter from the Council outlining its support.
“You’re going to have some people complain that they are unslightly, but it’s better than what we’ve had for the last 80 years – smokestacks,” Councilman Steven D. Fournier said.
Pitman first publicly met with Council members in October and has since met with Mayor Paul A. Dyster about exploring potential sites to place windmills in the city.
Empire State Wind Energy is also negotiating with the Town of Somerset over the terms of a potential revenue-sharing agreement on wind energy.
Pitman revealed few new details about the terms of a potential Falls project during his presentation Monday but said the company has agreed to share as much as 75 percent of net revenue from proposed wind-power projects in other municipalities.
“We know one of the nice things about this area is there is significant electrical transmission infrastructure,” Pitman said. “Meaning, if you can create power, there’s a place for it to go.”
Dyster has suggested that the city begin drafting a wind-power ordinance and conduct public meetings to determine whether residents are interested in exploring a public-private wind-power project.
In other business Monday, the Council:
• Turned down a proposed settlement with the Comfort Inn-the Point, on Prospect Street, to lower the hotel’s property assessment from $3.7 million to $3.16 million. The settlement was proposed after the hotel sought a $2.49 million assessment in court.
The property has benefited in prior years from an agreement to pay reduced property taxes.
• Upheld a decision by the city’s Planning Board to deny a request by Niagara Du Pont Employees Credit Union to change the zoning of a property at 655 73rd St. from residential to commercial. The building is a former trophy shop, but a special- use permit that allowed it to operate as a commercial property has expired.
The credit union had planned to purchase the property if the zoning change was approved.
The Council voted, 3-2, to uphold the Planning Board’s decision. The three members who upheld the board’s decision – Fournier, Councilman Chris A. Robins and Councilman Charles A. Walker – said the credit union should have applied for a use variance.
• Learned that Niagara Falls Block Club Council President Roger Spurback has moved to the Town of Niagara after filing a notice of claim against the City of Niagara Falls. The claim seeks $2,600 for excavation work Spurback said he had to have done at his house in Niagara Falls after roots from a tree on city property affected his sewer system.
Spurback, a Falls native, has been a longtime advocate for the city’s block club members. Spurback said he plans to continue to work with the block clubs and hopes to expand the club’s alliance to other areas of Niagara County and Western New York.
By Denise Jewell Gee
17 June 2008
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