With a company proposing a major wind farm in the area, the Town of Catlin may be one step closer to approving regulations governing the construction of wind turbines.
Officials held a public hearing Saturday on changes to the town’s laws. These changes would dictate where wind turbines could be built, how tall they could be, the amount of noise they could produce and other issues.
The 31-page law, which is posted on the town’s website, will likely be voted on at the Catlin Town Board’s next meeting, set for Oct. 7.
Florida-based NextEra Energy, one of the nation’s largest power providers, announced in 2012 that it planned to locate 50 to 75 turbines across Catlin, as well as the towns of Dix, Catharine and Hector in Schuyler County, including some on the property of Watkins Glen International.
Representatives from NextEra were supposed to be present at Saturday’s hearing, but were unable to attend.
In their absence, Catlin officials were not able to give a definite timetable for the construction of the turbines or say exactly where they would be built, but Town Supervisor LaVerne Phelps said they could be up and running as soon as late 2016.
In response to NextEra’s plans, Catlin officials decided to adopt wind farm regulations.
At Saturday’s public hearing, Marguerite Wells, of Black Oak Windfarm in Penfield, said many of the regulations built into the proposed law are already addressed by state regulations.
She said, however, that local laws are necessary to protect residents.
“If you have no law, then developers can either do anything they choose, or you might have developers not show up because they don’t want laws applied retroactively,” Wells said.
That pronouncement drew applause from the 50 to 60 people attending Saturday’s hearing, the majority of which were opposed to building wind turbines in the town.
The crowd expressed their disapproval when Phelps said that the majority of the tax revenues collected from NextEra under a tax break arrangement known as a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) would go to the Corning-Painted Post School District.
Phelps said that according to the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), 70 percent of the PILOT money would go to the school district, while 23 percent would go to Chemung County.
Catlin would receive only 7 percent of the PILOT payments.
Residents who attended Saturday’s hearing expressed their displeasure at the low percentage allocated to the town. Phelps said town officials may be able to negotiate a higher percentage, but he wasn’t optimistic about their chances of success based on his conversation with the Chemung IDA.
The town would receive $5,700 per turbine as part of a host program. Phelps said this would help offset the $100,000 in sales tax revenue the town may lose as soon as next year. Chemung County recently changed its formula for sharing sales tax revenues with municipalities, lowering the percentage.
Phelps did say that if all goes smoothly with both town officials and the environmental review process, the turbines could be built and running by the latter part of 2016.
NextEra officials said in 2012 when the project was first presented they envisioned constructing between 50 and 75 turbines. That number might be reduced significantly based on the distance of 1,400 feet the town planning board set between turbines and properties that do not contain turbines.
Residents were also not pleased that they could not vote on the issue. Phelps said he spoke with the town lawyer about this. According to the lawyer, New York is not a state that allows referendums except in very specific instances. The construction of wind farms does not fall under the strict definition of what can be voted on by residents.
During the public comment period, one resident expressed concern over the value of properties adjacent to wind turbines.
Both Phelps and Wells said there have been no studies in New York that have shown that property values have permanently dropped because of the presence of turbines.
“A dip occurs right before the turbines go in, but then values go right back up again,” Wells said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding