The winds of change have shifted direction in the Town of Catlin.
The town, which was considering a local law allowing for development of wind power, is now contemplating a local law to ban wind farms.
The Catlin Town Board was looking at a proposal to allow Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources to build a wind farm in the town. NextEra already had 30 leases signed, town officials said.
The plan was not popular with many residents, who turned out at two public information meetings to raise concerns about noise, loss of scenic landscape and other environmental impacts.
“Frankly, I am surprised and I am encouraged that the town is in the process of contacting the Catlin planning board about banning Industrial Wind Turbines from the Town of Catlin,” said Joseph Calderon, a Catlin resident who mounted a write-in campaign for town supervisor this month. “I think I echo the statements of many of the folks in the Town. Before the meeting this past Thursday, we handed in a petition of 267 signatures from concerned citizens of Catlin to postpone the passage of the law. We were never against or for wind in general but we needed more information about the the impact Wind industrialization would have on health, property values, ecology and tourism. If we had not postponed the vote that was supposed to take place a month ago I don’t know where we would have been frankly. This is a step in the right direction.”
But public opposition is not what swayed the board, said Town Supervisor LaVerne Phelps. Instead, it was the revelation that under current state law, once the town opens the door by passing an enabling local law, there’s a possibility any conditions the town imposes could be overruled.
“Part of it comes under Article 10, a law that the state passed. The state law supersedes all local laws,” Phelps said. “We found a bunch of scenarios that if wind turbine company decided if anything was over burdensome or unreasonable, they could apply to Article 10 and could supersede whatever the town determined.
“For example, our biggest thing was setbacks, and if we had settled on 1,700 feet for a setback, the wind turbine company could say it would restrict and reduce the project,” he said. “Under Article 10, they could go to the siting board and say ‘Yes, what they have done is greatly reducing or restricting our project. The industrial standard is 1,200 feet.’ Be aware even though the town banned (wind farms), the siting board has the ability to override the ban also.”
The Schuyler County Town of Dix, which is adjacent to Catlin, is also considering wind turbine proposals but is early in its process, Phelps said.
If Dix allows for wind farms and Catlin does not, Phelps said there’s a possibility a wind energy company could claim it needs additional properties to make its project work and ask that Catlin‘s ban be overturned.
The town’s attorney is drafting a local law that would ban wind farms. If everything falls into place, the Town Board could probably vote on that law by February, Phelps said.