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Enfield attorney questions wind farm agreement

The Town of Enfield attorney has several concerns about the agreement between the developer of a proposed wind farm and the town.

If the town board takes town attorney Guy Krogh’s advice and rejects wind developer John Rancich’s proposed developer’s agreement at its Wednesday, July 9 meeting, the project will be delayed for years.

The agreement would allow Rancich to move ahead with a purchasing agreement to obtain wind turbines in the spring of 2009. Without the developer’s agreement, Rancich may not be able to obtain the turbines for four years because of the wait-list to buy wind turbines, said Steve Bauman, Rancich’s associate.

The agreement called for the town board to publicly announce its support for the wind farm. It would make the town the lead agency on the state environmental quality review, and the town would receive payments of at least $35,000 a year from wind farm revenue.

Krogh named several concerns he had with the agreement in an e-mail to town Supervisor Frank Podufalski obtained by The Journal.

The most outstanding reason in the e-mail is that the agreement would act as a binding contract that, without a law in place, would be the only enforcement tool the town has during development. Krogh wrote that large projects such as a wind farm usually operate under both a developer’s agreement and a local law.

Krogh also raised concerns that the money guaranteed to the town, as written in the agreement, could be construed as a bribe and that the state Department of Environmental Conservation will likely ask to be lead agency on the state environmental quality review.

Podufalski said he thinks he knows how he’s going to vote on the proposed agreement but would rather hear the board’s discussion before making it public.

“I feel that it’s only fair to discuss it, bring it out in the open, get a good sense what everybody else feels like, and that’s the only way to decide on this. For me to come out and say ‘yeah, I’m in favor or against it’ doesn’t do any good at this point.”

Councilman Rob Harvey said he’s prepared to vote against the agreement based on Krogh’s opinion.

Harvey was ready to propose a wind-farm moratorium before Podufalski told the town board at a meeting earlier this month the proposed agreement would be voted on at its next meeting, and he gave Podufalski credit for holding back on the vote.

“We want to do it the right way,” Podufalski said. “No disrespect to Mr. Rancich. I like what he’s doing. I think he’s got a great sense of giving something to the community, but on the other hand I want to make sure it’s right. I don’t want the former town board members coming back at us and saying you’re ethically wrong.”

One of the first actions the town board took this year was to repeal a wind law it said was passed illegally by the previous town board. Harvey, the only current board member who was also on the board in 2007, said he would have rather seen that wind law amended instead of appealed, and he questioned the decision to repeal the law without replacing it with a moratorium.

“We don’t have zoning,” Harvey said. “Without zoning, our people aren’t protected like the Town of Ithaca. John Rancich, blessing or no blessing, can start building a wind farm right now. I give the man credit (for not moving forward without town board approval).”

Rancich would have to undergo site plan review through the planning board.

In Harvey’s opinion, a wind farm of the proposed size would have an affect not just in Enfield but in adjacent towns. He said a uniform law may work to the benefit of every town.

“Our planning board can coordinate with other planning boards as well. The Town of Ithaca is our neighbor. The Town of Newfield is our neighbor … they have a new planning board they just started. I would think that our planning board and all these other planning boards ought to get together and come up with one law.”

Rancich could not be reached for comment.

By Tim Ashmore
Journal Staff

The Ithaca Journal

24 June 2008