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Stockholm mulls neighborly benefits in wind law

WINTHROP – If wind turbines rise on Stockholm residents’ properties, town officials hope their neighbors will benefit too.

A town committee has been exploring a potential local wind law with two unusual provisions. The law would require a wind energy company to publicly disclose any land use agreements it makes with property owners to build turbines. It would also mandate the company provide some compensation to neighboring properties.

“The benefits of the lease would be spread over the complete shadow of the tower,” Supervisor Clark S. Decker said. “We’re hoping to see if we’d be able to spread the award of the contract out to these other areas.”

The St. Lawrence County Planning Board had previously indicated a small corridor along U.S. Route 11 could be suitable for wind development, Mr. Decker said. He was not aware of any wind companies approaching Stockholm property owners.

Spreading a wind turbine’s profits to neighboring properties and making all information public could eliminate some of the divisiveness splitting other north country towns attempting to draft laws, Mr. Decker said.

“It might just be a dream,” Mr. Decker said. “Unless you attempt it and get told no, you’d never know.”

The town board recently received a committee report on the idea, and unanimously passed a resolution allowing the group to further explore the subject. The committee noted much of the rest of the law would mirror the town of Hammond’s.

“Most residents disgruntled by the prospect of wind power in their towns are not against wind power per se, but feel disenfranchised because of problems with the siting process,” the report noted.

“Clearly there will be differences of opinion about the development of wind power in a community, but having discussions about it before wind leases are signed allows opinion to be formed before the strong force of self-interest eclipses the interest of the community.”

Committee member Robin McClellan said he was unsure of the law’s feasibility.

“I’m not sure there are legal structures in place that would allow us to do what we want to do short of developing it as a municipality and that’s a lot of work on the legal and financial front,” he said in an email. “At this point, we don’t know what the wind potential is or whether the infrastructure exists to get the power into the system, so it’s a moot point.”

Jason Pfotenauer, deputy director at St. Lawrence County Planning Office, said he had never heard of a law requiring compensation for neighboring properties.

“It does sound unique. I don’t remember seeing something similar to that,” he said. “That certainly would be appealing to adjacent property owners.”

He said he wasn’t sure how the wind turbine companies would view such a local law. And if state government finalizes Article X, a review board could strike down local wind laws deemed “unreasonably burdensome.”

“If that comes into play, it is possible these local laws may be able to be trumped,” he said.