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Colton renews one-year wind moratorium

POTSDAM – The town is doing its part to keep wind turbines out of Colton, at least for the time being.

Council members narrowly passed, by a vote of 3-2, a one-year extension of its wind moratorium Wednesday night.

The ban on turbine development is meant to protect the town until it can come up with a local law to regulate the towers, Town Supervisor Lawrence C. Patzwald said.

“Since there are no regulations or restrictions an individual (wanting to build) could do just about anything they wanted to do,” he told town council members Wednesday night.

Two years ago the town enacted the moratorium, banning any wind development in the town. The intent was, and still is, to use the temporary ban to buy the town time to develop a local wind law, Mr. Patzwald said.

But with the current moratorium set to expire at the end of the month and no local law yet on the book, developers would have had free reign unless the ban was renewed.

“It’s almost a war zone in some places out there,” Mr. Patzwald said.

Councilman Ronald G. Robert, who along with Kathryn R. Hayes, cast the votes against, however, questioned the need for the law.

There are no developers beating down the door at the town hall to build in Colton, Mr. Robert said. The only people that will be affected are private property owners who may have wanted to build a tower on their land.

“The first thing we think about is rules and regulations,” Mr. Robert said a day after the meeting. “A lot of people are getting sick of that.”

Colton isn’t the first north country town to pass the ban on wind development. Cape Vincent caused a stir earlier this week when they passed a similar moratorium.

But some have questioned the ability of the towns to enforce the ban. Wind-farm developers could hypothetically choose to work around the local wind laws by submitting another application for the state to consider under Article X.

Passed last year, the law gives officials in Albany control over wind energy projects 25 megawatts or larger.

But for now, local officials continue to do what they can to protect themselves, Mr. Patzwald said.

And the supervisor, who last year made it a goal to have a wind law in place by this time, wasn’t going to make any promises the moratorium wouldn’t be renewed again next year.

Both the Planning and Zoning Boards are busy with updating the town’s codification policies, he said, with not much time to spare time to tackle a wind law.

“There are so many issues involved. This isn’t something that overnight you develop wind energy policy,” the supervisor said.