The North Collins Town Board held a public hearing on Sept. 27 to hear final arguments concerning the issuance of a special-use permit for the installation of a wind turbine at the John Richmond Farm at Langford and Jennings roads.
The special-use permit was sought as the town is currently working toward drafting a wind turbine law and Richmond is under deadline pressure to commence work or lose out on financial incentives that will make the project viable.
Town Supervisor Thomas O’Boyle led off noting the absence of Town Clerk Margaret Orrange. He said it was her responsibility to be in attendance and in the past had been challenged by Orrange on the legality of meetings she was not at.
O’Boyle asked Councilman Michael Perry to keep the minutes of the meeting.
O’Boyle continued that windmills are clearly covered under New York State agricultural law, specifically, when used for agricultural purposes in an agricultural district, the local municipality cannot forbid its erection. Richmond’s project is in such a district and its purpose is to offset the high electricity costs associated with his dairy operation.
After hearing concerns about and support for this particular project at the past several regular town board meetings, there were no public comments offered at this hearing.
Councilman George LoBianco did voice concern that if the special-use permit were issued now, before the formal adoption of a town ordinance, would it set a precedent for others to erect wind turbines at will around town.
Town Attorney Richard Schaus said that would not be a concern as Richmond has not only met, but in many cases exceeded, the requirements that are expected to be in the new law. He noted that Richmond has actually been the “guinea pig” as the town moves toward wind power legislation and the town has benefitted greatly in developing a procedure by learning about the process.
Schaus did present a list of concerns presented to him by the Erie County Department of Planning, which covered topics such as possible disruption to water and gas wells, the crossing of right-of-ways and if any changes to infrastructure would be needed to construct or bring materials to the site. Each point was declared negative by Richmond.
Construction plans for the turbine were presented, which showed preliminary drilling and soil sampling beginning soon. The tower foundation would be installed this November and construction of the lattice tower would begin in April of next year with the installation of the wind turbine in the spring.
Schaus offered to draft a resolution for the special-use permit together with Code Enforcement Officer Phil Tremblay to present to the board at their next meeting. He also encouraged the board to enter into the record that they had taken into account concerns raised during the process on possible negative environmental and health effects that have been reported from wind farm sites.
Following the meeting, O’Boyle sought to clarify his statements at the meeting’s outset on Clerk Orrange’s absence. Referring to the Town Law Manual, issued by the Association of Towns of New York State, he noted that the clerk must be notified of all special meetings and is mandated to be present. Since this was done and the clerk had posted the advertisement, he believed that she was absent.
Contacted about this, Orrange stated that the meeting was a public hearing, not a special meeting and thus she was not mandated to attend. Additionally, she said that she informed O’Boyle and the town attorney that she and Councilman Marian Vanni would be out of town on the date set for the hearing.
The board will meet in regular session on Oct. 12 at 7 pm in the town hall.