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Planning Board OKs winery windmill

CAMBRIA – The Town Planning Board has reversed itself on a wind power project at Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, scrubbing its previous rejection of the proposal and approving it instead.

The change may have been the result of a lawsuit filed against the town by the winery owners, as well as a phone call to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

An agreement canceling the lawsuit, which was to have been heard next Thursday in State Supreme Court, referred to the Planning Board’s “incorrect interpretation” of a provision of the town’s wind power ordinance, passed in 2009.

The provision in question was a line requiring the electricity generated by an approved windmill to be used solely for agricultural use.

If so, a windmill project would require only site-plan review by the Planning Board. Otherwise, it would need a stricter special use permit, requiring a public hearing.

When the Planning Board voted down the Arrowhead proposal Nov. 29, it believed it had been misled by Duncan and Robin Ross, owners of the winery off Cambria-Lockport Town Line Road.

They told the board that the power was to be used for winery operations only, but further discussion showed the power also would go to the Ross home, which is on the same parcel.

Town Building Inspector Clifford

E. Burch said that shouldn’t have ruled out the Arrowhead proposal.

A check with Ag and Markets showed the state doesn’t interpret its own wind power regulations as requiring separate electric services for residences and farm operations.

“Most farmers have their offices in their houses,” Burch said.

“The interpretation shouldn’t have been so narrow,” said Planning Board attorney Gary Billingsley.

“It’s a farm operation. They’re using one [electric] meter,” said the Rosses’ attorney, Charles W. Malcomb of Buffalo’s Hodgson Russ law firm.

The project approved by the Planning Board last week was the same as the one it had rejected two months before: a 10-kilowatt windmill 132 feet high, measuring from the ground to the tip of the windmill blades in their highest position.

It was uncertain when construction would begin.