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Parishville scraps wind property clause

PARISHVILLE – The jury is still out on whether wind turbines decrease property value, but Parishville residents will have to cross their fingers if developers break ground in the town.

After months of trying to incorporate a clause into their local law that would force wind developers to guarantee property values and reimburse any property owner who claimed their land’s value had been diminished by a neighboring wind turbine, the town has decided to scrap the entire idea for now.

Both the town council and their attorney, Roger B. Linden, agreed the idea, while developed with good intentions, would be impossible to monitor.

This decision has drawn the ire of at least one town resident, who said he feels the town gave up too quickly on the idea.

“I get the sense some of you are just throwing up your hands and saying come on in,” Gary J. Snell Sr. told board members.

And as the board continues to finalize their proposal, Mr. Snell said he is concerned some council members may have a hidden agenda when recommending changes to the law.

“I’m concerned board members are bringing issues here that could be interpreted as very personally gaining changes to this law and that bothers me,” he said.

Council members adamantly denied the presumption they may be looking out for their own interests in the process.

“We all come to this board to be good to our neighbors and represent our constituents as good as possible,” Councilwoman Kari E. Tremper said.

The town attorney said he had recommended the change. “I reviewed it all and said forget it because it isn’t going to work,” Mr. Linden noted. “It will cause a lot of trouble and a lot of questions about if it’s enforceable.”

Various studies have been conducted across the country in an effort to determine the impact of wind farms on property values. The studies have produced mixed results, with some saying that wind turbines have no effect on property values and others saying the projects hurt them.

In May, officials in Parishville looked to preempt any potential for a depreciation of value, wanting to include a clause in their law that would require developers to sign a contract with property owners guaranteeing the value of their land.

Town leaders looked to Hammond, where a similar condition was required, as a guide. Mr. Linden was given a copy of Hammond’s proposed contract, which he says was poorly written and full of holes.

“I wasn’t impressed with it,” Mr. Linden said. “It had been hastily put together, and I didn’t feel comfortable providing it to the town (Parishville).”

After spending months attempting to rework the language in the contract to make it more enforceable, Mr. Linden and the board decided to do away with the entire idea, leaving residents in Parishville to wonder about the potential impact wind farms may have on their land.

Ultimately, Hammond also decided to do away with the guarantee, realizing they would have difficulty enforcing the concept.

Town Supervisor Jerry G. Moore said the board will continue to search for some way to hold developers accountable for maintaining property values in the town.

“My biggest concern about wind farms is the devaluation of property,” Mr. Moore said. “If I could find a way to put it in back in I would.”