HAMMOND – While Iberdrola Renewables says a proposed law requiring wind turbine companies to compensate property owners who see drops in their land values could force the company to drop plans for a development in Hammond, Town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram says he supports the ordinance.
“I think that’s one area they’ve definitely made progress,” Mr. Bertram said Wednesday of the “Residential Property Value Guarantee Agreement” (RPVG) proposed by wind committee member, Richard K. Champney, a real estate lawyer with offices in Alexandria Bay and Pulaski. “Personally, I believe it’s vital in protecting the citizens of Hammond.”
Mr. Champney described key points of his proposal at Tuesday’s wind committee meeting, calling for assurances from Iberdrola that if a property owner cannot get the appraised value of his/her home at sale because of the presence of wind turbines, then Iberdrola would be required to make up the difference. The proposal also requires Iberdrola to buy out a property owner who is completely opposed to living near a turbine.
Mr. Bertram said he agreed with Ronald R. Papke, committee tri-chair, who questioned Iberdrola’s objection to such an agreement.
“If there aren’t any negative effects to property values, then they are no worse for wear if this agreement is included,” Mr. Papke said.
“I don’t understand that either,” Mr. Bertram said.
“We feel the draft of the RPVG is unworkable as it stands now,” said Paul N. Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola. Mr. Copleman said Wednesday that a conference call would be arranged involving he, a reporter, Mark Epstein, senior counsel for Iberdrola, and author of the letter, and Jenny Burke, Iberdrola’s business manager in Hammond.
Though the call never occurred, Mr. Copleman did provide a copy of the letter sent to the Hammond wind committee explaining the firm’s opposition to the proposal.
“We were very surprised and disappointed to receive this document without having the opportunity to discuss with the Committee the fully documented evidence, conducted by independent researchers, which clearly demonstrates that there is no negative impact on property values caused by a wind farm. We understand why this question is of interest to the community, and as we have shown at wind projects throughout the country, we are happy to discuss the matter in a fair and open matter in order to alleviate any concern. We would hope to have that conversation before any action is taken on the RPVG,” Mr. Epstein writes.
“We are also frequently asked why we are opposed to documents like the RPVG if the evidence so clearly demonstrates that there is no negative impact from the construction of a wind farm on property values. The answer is the tremendous administrative burden these plans impose on the Company, as well as the intrusion into landowners’ basic rights concerning the sale of their properties,” the letter continues.
“I would have to consider who this Mr. Epstein is,” Mr. Bertram said of the letter. “Is he a spokesman? I don’t know their hierarchy, but I’m not ready to give up the safety of non-participants just so the company will come in here.
“I refuse to be threatened,” Mr. Bertram said.
The letter argues the ordinance is excessive and unacceptable and “would eliminate any possibility of development in Hammond not only of wind farms, but also of any other commercial development.”
“While there are many terms that we consider objectionable, in particular, the idea that a landowner could force the Company to purchase their property renders the economics of development in Hammond completely unpredictable and unworkable,” the letter says.
Wind committee action will be addressed Monday at 7:15 p.m., according to Mr. Bertram, as the town board meets in the town offices.
“My intention is that the town board takes this up in the end of January,” he said, adding that he “fully expects recommendations from the wind committee before then.”
“My goal still stands,” he says of his deadline for the committee to make suggestions for improving the under-moratorium wind law. “If those suggestions are delivered in parts and pieces, we can live with that.”
“We’re going to see some results soon, or the town board takes over,” he said.
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