PARISHVILLE – As local officials continue to work their way toward finalizing a draft of their proposed wind law, many say they are being forced to walk a fine line in the process.
With the state’s newly enacted energy law, which was signed into law in August and gives officials in Albany the final say in any large-scale energy project, Parishville officials say they have been put in a difficult position when deciding what restrictions to place upon potential developers: Make their local law too restrictive and the state could simply overrule their ordinance, make it too lenient and developers could have free reign, leaving town residents to suffer the consequences.
“It has gotten to be a fine line we have to walk since the state came up Article 10,” Frederick S. Wilhelm, chairman of the Parishville Planning Board, said. “We want the town to have as much as control as possible without making the law too restrictive.”
Parishville isn’t the only town in the midst of this juggling act. Jason C. Pfotenhauer, deputy director at the St. Lawrence County Planning Office, said the towns of Hammond and Hopkinton also dealt with similar issues, concerned the state may seize control and leave local residents voiceless in the process.
“The way the law is written says the state needs to take into account the local land use law but they have the authority to overrule the law if it’s too restrictive,” Mr. Pfotenhauer said. “That’s where the vagary comes in. Who knows what is considered too restrictive?”
Parishville will continue to weigh their options next week, during a joint meeting between town council members and the planning board.
Last month, Parishville Town Councilman Conrad D. Cook proposed a series of changes to the draft of the plan, all of which would create more lax restrictions on wind developers.
Included in his proposal would be the ability for wind developers to clear trees or brush that might interfere with wind flow and the construction of the wind farm, something the current law prohibits.
He suggested decreasing the required distance wind turbines be placed from historical sites, which officials have set at two and a half miles.
“That would eliminate half of Parishville from being considered for development,” he said during the August council meeting.
Mr. Cook also proposed decreasing the required distance turbines are placed from seasonal roads from 1,000 feet to 500.
These changes would give developers more land to work with, while also decreasing the chance the state may want to become involved in the process, he said.
But, Mr. Pfotenhauer warned, towns shouldn’t develop their laws while trying to anticipate what the state may or may not do.
“I would advise towns to proceed as they have been proceeding so far,” he said. “They should write a regulation they are comfortable with and address the concerns at their level. That’s all they really can do.”
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