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Cape Vincent enacts 7-month wind moratorium

The Town Council passed a seven-month moratorium halting all wind-power development in Cape Vincent on Tuesday night without any surprises.

The vote was 4-1, with the last remaining pro-wind councilman, Mickey W. Orvis, opposing the resolution.

Cape Vincent now has until Sept. 7 to put together a new wind law, although some believe this is meaningless as wind-farm developers may choose to work around Cape Vincent’s local wind law by submitting another application for the state to consider under Article X.

“I think Article X would make us a neutral party,” Mr. Orvis said before voting against the moratorium, adding that this would also allow the town board to “start the healing” of the divide the debate over wind power has caused.

There are two commercial wind projects proposed in Cape Vincent: the St. Lawrence Wind Farm and the Cape Vincent Wind Farm.

However, Councilmen Clifford P. Schneider said, town governments still have to provide some basis, some regulation for these types of development in their communities.

“With respect to Article X, that deals with everything above 25 megawatts, but we could still very well have some industrial development; some people could apply through our Planning Board on a local level for an industrial development. Yes, you are not going to have 135, 140 turbines, but you very well might have an application for 10, 12 or up to 20,” Mr. Schneider said. “Although with Article X, the game has changed, it is still very important for communities to update their zoning.”

Committees have been formed to revise the town’s outdated zoning law and comprehensive plan, and each plans to recommend revisions to the Town Council this summer after holding public hearings.

All personal wind turbine projects also will be delayed while the moratorium is in effect – regardless of whether permits were granted before Tuesday’s vote – with possibly one exception: Robert A. Shimp’s 50-foot turbine.

Cape Vincent Zoning Board Chairman R. Dennis Faulknham said Monday that the town’s legal counsel determined that the town board has the authority to cancel permits already issued when it is “in the process of instituting a moratorium,” but only if a “substantial investment in the development has not occurred.”

Mr. Shimp has spent some $25,000 on wind turbine parts and plans to spend an additional $8,000 to $10,000 to assemble and install the turbine next to his 31699 County Route 6 home.

“The issue really is, for his own safety, is the site plan correct? Because he’s got 15 feet from his house and the structure is 50 feet tall. My only concern is for his safety and the safety of his neighbors,” said town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey, who wrote a letter Jan. 30 ordering Mr. Shimp to stop his project because a wind moratorium had been proposed.

Mr. Shimp has since hired a lawyer and stated that he would take legal action to protect his interests if he has to.