December 30, 2010
New York

Hammond wind panel adopts home guarantee

By Matt McAllister, The Journal, 30 December 2010

HAMMOND – Is the Hammond Wind Committee nailing the coffin on the town’s chances of hosting an Iberdrola-owned wind farm?

The committee voted 9 to 1 Tuesday evening – with committee member and leaseholder, Michele W. McQueer, casting the lone dissenting vote – to adopt the controversial Residential Property Value Guarantee (RPVG) as a suggestion to the town board.

In a recent letter from Iberdrola Renewables to the committee, Mark Epstein, Esq., senior counsel, wrote, “We believe that if the Committee chooses to pursue the RPVG, it will prevent any development of windpower facilities in Hammond.”

Iberdrola Communications Manager Paul Copleman e-mailed the following statement on Wednesday: “We are disappointed in the Committee’s decision to recommend the Residential Property Value Guarantee in its current form. While we appreciate and welcome the Committee taking a close look at the concerns expressed by some community members, we have explained the significant and potentially prohibitive burden such a RPVG would place on both members of the community and any company wishing to open a business in Hammond.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Committee, but most likely won’t reach any decision about the project’s viability until Hammond adopts zoning laws governing wind energy.”

The agreement, drafted by Richard K. Champney, committee member and real estate attorney, was reviewed over the past several weeks by all committee members, who offered their suggestions. Many members of the public were also considered, according to Mr. Champney, who said he had received a horde of phone calls and e-mails, none of which offered opposition to his proposal.

After a lengthy discussion, a motion was made by Merritt V. Young and seconded by Ronald R. Papke.

The revised document includes changes in Section 13, “Exclusive option of any residential property owner living within close proximity (two miles) to a wind turbine,” where a property owner has a once in a lifetime right to be reimbursed for his or her real property and five acres surrounding that residence at the then appraised value, if they follow the provisions listed in the document.

These provisions now include:

* Property owner must notify guarantor within 90 days of issuance of an industrial wind farm permit;

* Property owner must have been the legal owner of real property at the time permit was issued;

* Property owner and the guarantor will enter into a 30-day cooling off period where property owner discusses entering into a Good Neighbor Program and if it is not possible, they will continue to complete the agreement application;

* Guarantor will consider relocating wind turbine out of a two-mile radius of the property owner’s residence;

* If property owner and guarantor have not reached agreement within 60 days, the property owner orders a certified property appraisal that can be used as cost replacement value;

* If still no agreement, a second and/or even a third appraisal can be ordered which will then be averaged with the first to determine the final controlling value the property owner will receive as a buyout from the guarantor (wind company). This option cannot be used in conjunction with any future guarantee of the sale of a residence.

In further discussion before moving on to the next issue, there was mention made of a Good Neighbor Agreement that Iberdrola representative, Jenny Burke, had just made available to committee members which was apparently offered as an alternative to the RPVG.

Good Neighbor Agreements are made between non-participating land owners in the vicinity of wind turbines and the wind company, according to Ms. Burke, and can involve either monthly or annual payments in exchange for closer proximity. In response to a question from committee member, Frederick Proven, Ms. Burke said such agreements typically apply to anyone living within 3000 feet of a wind turbine but that it hadn’t been decided for this particular project because a turbine layout has not yet been established.

Mr. Champney said that a landowner could not apply for both agreements, as it would constitute “double dipping.” He said he would be willing to hold a complimentary workshop for landowners to help them understand the ramifications of a Good Neighbor Agreement.

Members discussed property management issues that included oversight of the wind project, decommissioning, and insurance and liability issues.

Board members also discussed the wind overlay district and attempted to clarify how it applies to the waterfront. Several committee members felt that rather than starting at Route 12, it should begin at the St. Lawrence River shoreline. This discussion will continue Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Hammond Central School Library, with additional agenda items to include economics and tourism, setbacks and environmental issues.

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