The Catlin Town Board has delayed a vote on a law that would regulate the placement of wind turbines in the town.
The board was supposed to vote on the local law at Thursday’s meeting, but Supervisor LaVerne Phelps said town officials had more work to do on the State Environmental Quality Review before the vote could be held.
Phelps said the board may vote on the law during its December meeting, set for 7 p.m. Dec. 11.
NextEra Energy, an energy company based in Florida, had approached town residents about siting wind turbines on their property.
NextEra announced in 2012 that it planned to locate wind 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. Plans for the $200 million project called for 50 to 75 turbines. About 30 of the turbines would be in Catlin.
This prompted town officials to begin work crafting a local law governing factors such as the distance turbines can be located from neighboring dwellings, the maximum height of turbines and the amount of noise the turbines can generate.
The lack of action by the board Thursday did not appease those in attendance, the vast majority of whom were opposed to locating wind turbines in the town.
Several residents in attendance Thursday wanted the town board to put the issue up for a public vote. Both Phelps and the town attorney, John Mustico, said this was not one of the few issues that the state allows residents to vote on directly.
Residents still wanted the board to hold a straw vote to gauge residents’ opinions on the issue. Mustico pointed out that residents had numerous opportunities, including a public hearing, two informational meetings and regular town board meetings, to express their opinions.
Board member Charles Austin said he would welcome a public vote on the issue.
“It would take the heat off us,” Austin said.
At least one resident felt that by considering a local law that could enable the wind farm project to move forward, the town board wasn’t representing the wishes of its constituents.
“You were elected to represent the wants and needs of the majority of the town,” the resident said. “From what I’ve heard you only represent about 30 landowners and a company based out of Florida.”
Mustico chided residents for assuming board members had taken a position they may or may not have taken.
“Everybody who has a side assumes the board is on the other side,” Mustico said. “The board doesn’t have a side. Right now the board is voting on a law. They are not voting on a windmill.”
Both Phelps and Mustico warned that if the board passed no regulations governing wind turbines, companies like NextEra could petition the state under Article 10 of the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. It would then be up to a five-person panel to determine whether wind turbines could be built in the town and what standards would be followed.
Some at Thursday’s meeting wanted the board to either enact a moratorium on wind turbines or make the town law so restrictive that no company would want to build within the town.
Mustico said doing either could prompt NextEra or other energy companies to petition the state.
A copy of the proposed law is available on the town’s website, www.townofcatlin.com.
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