Town officials introduced a new local law to regulate the construction of wind energy conversion systems in Hanover.
At a recent Hanover Town Board meeting, a public hearing was held for an updated local law regulating WECS – to replace the former local law from 2006 – in anticipation of the upcoming Ball Hill Windpark joint project with the town of Villenova through Noble Power.
The proposed project will be situated in the southern end of Hanover and the northern end of Villenova. An estimated 67 turbines are expected to be erected, producing 100.5 mega-watts, or enough electricity to power 40,000 to 50,000 homes each year. Of the 67 turbines, 11 will be situated on private property within Hanover, in addition to collection lines and a collection station.
According to the local law, the town board is designated as the sole permitting authority, and states “no wind energy conversion system shall be sited, located, constructed, erected or modified without the issuance of a special-use permit.”
Application for a permit will be a two-step process, town attorney Jeffrey Passafaro explained. Applicants must first designate boundaries for a wind overlay zone.
A wind overlay zone is defined by the local law as “a district or zone which encompasses one or more underlying zones and that establishes requirements for wind energy facilities.”
“The most important consideration is that the town is amending its local law to provide that no wind energy facilities will be permitted outside of a wind overlay zone,” Passafaro said, “which is a zone to be created only upon application by the town board.”
If the proposed wind overlay zone is approved by the town board, he explained, individuals must then make application for the actual wind energy facilities.
Applications, permits and inspection fees for WECS will be established by the town board. However, no amount was listed in the law.
Supervisor Katherine Tampio explained the new law outlines provisions for an escrow account to ensure all fees related to potential projects are covered by applicants.
“Any legal fees, consultant fees, or engineering fees that are incurred by the town of Hanover will be paid by the wind power applicant,” she said. “It’s not going to be at town expense.”
In addition, the law requires all costs associated with decommissioning wind energy facilities to be paid by the applicant. Commercial WECS not generating energy for a period of one year must be removed, with the site restored to as natural condition as possible, and non-commercial WECS not in use for 12 successive months will be dismantled and removed at the owner’s expense.
Revisions were also made to the height limit of commercial towers, which was extended to the statutory limit of 420 feet. Non-commercial towers are limited to 75 feet, or 120 feet including turbine and blades if the tower is located on a parcel of 10 or more acres.
Setback revisions require all commercial WECS to be 500 feet from the nearest property line, right-of-way, easement, power line, public road, as well as 500 feet from gas wells, and gas and electric distribution lines. They must be 1,000 feet from the nearest residential dwelling, school, church or historical structure existing at the time of application, and 100 feet from state-identified wetlands.
Non-commercial WECS must not be located closer than one and a half times the total height of the structure to any property line.
The law also set the noise limit at 50 decibels for both commercial and non-commercial WECS as measured from the nearest residences.
Failure to meet the requirements of a special-use permit will result in an applicants permit being revoked and order for wind energy facilities to be removed within 120 days of notification.
With the revised law, the town also leaves open the potential to receive revenue through a host community or PILOT agreements since WECS are typically tax exempt.
Kevin O’Connell suggested any money received be used to ease the tax burden of town residents.
“I realize the money received from this type of project could be minimal,” he said, “but I would like to see these funds earmarked by the town board for property tax relief.”
Mike Hall agreed and asked what town officials are planning to do with any revenue resulting from the wind farm project, and who will decide how the money will be used.
Tampio said the town board will ultimately decide how the money is expended, but has made no decisions since town officials don’t know how much the town will receive yet. However, she said offering property tax relief to town residents will be a prime consideration.
The board tabled a motion to adopt the new WECS law in order to review and consider comments received from the Chautauqua County Planning Department and special council for a private developer. Copies of the WECS law are available at the town hall.
By Joel Cuthbert
7 July 2008
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