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Hopkinton tables turbine regulations law

The Hopkinton Town Council has tabled approving a law regulating wind energy facilities.

The council had intended to vote on the local law, which would establish parameters for wind energy in Hopkinton, after a public hearing Monday night. But after a last minute lobby from wind energy opponents, the council deferred its vote until November.

During the two-hour hearing, several in attendance submitted testimony and information about wind power for the council’s consideration. When the time came to vote, some of those who submitted information criticized the council for not reading it before voting.

“You’re acting like you’re indifferent to the voice of the citizens by voting tonight,” said Lynda A. Bage of Hopkinton.

The council then deferred the vote.

“I feel we owe it to the people,” Councilwoman Sue Wood said.

Opponents will not be able to stall the vote again next month, Town Supervisor Marvin Rust said.

“You’ve spoken your piece. I’ve given you until the next meeting and then we will vote on this,” he said.

Mr. Rust had expected the council to approve the law Monday night. He will review the submitted information, but the town supervisor said any literature from wind energy opponents is likely to be one-sided.

“They’re not going to give you anything positive,” he said afterward.

The town first began working on the law after Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., inked contracts with several Hopkinton property owners last year. Those agreements allow Iberdrola to build on their property should a wind farm development take root.

The deferment followed a contentious meeting, which attracted about 45 people, the majority of whom opposed the idea of wind turbines in Hopkinton.

Many wondered why the town had drafted a law allowing turbines to be set back 600 feet from the road, while the St. Lawrence County Planning Board had recommended “one in a half times the tower height,” which in this case is over 700 feet.

“My concern is these regulations are being drafted with little or no technical background,” Luke Dailey of Parishville said.

The county’s recommendation is not set in stone, Mr. Rust replied. The town’s proposed law is actually stricter than many others in the state, he said.

“You don’t have to take everything they say as gospel,” he said.

Ms. Bage wondered what would happen to the turbines if federal government incentives for wind energy dried up.

“What if we are burdened with a wind development that is no longer economically viable without the current level of subsidization?” she asked.

Mr. Rust called passing the law a “safety net,” which would establish a framework for wind energy.

“Just between you and me, I think there’s a good chance this will never get off the ground,’ he said.

But should a wind farm be built, the additional tax base generated could help the town renovate and upgrade its deteriorating facilities, Mr. Rust said.

“We are a poor little town,” he said. ” We could use all the help we can get.”

He as not convinced the turbines would pose serious health or environmental risks to Hopkinton as some at the hearing worried.

“If it was as bad as you people think it will be, I’d vote it down,” he said.