For the second time in nine months, Thompson Brothers Greenhouse was denied its application for a variance to bypass town height restrictions and erect a 13-story wind turbine on its Clarence Center Road property.
During the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Monday night, residents from streets surrounding the 18-acre greenhouse lot packed Town Hall to hear whether or not the turbine would be approved. A group of about 30 homeowners retained attorney Jeffrey Palumbo to speak on their behalf in opposition to the variance.
“None of us should even be here this evening,” Palumbo said. “The law is very clear. The variance in the first application was denied. In order for this board to even hear a second application, you would have to make a determination that the facts are significantly different. These facts are exactly the same except for a minor reduction in height.”
Thompson Brothers had applied for a turbine more than 150 feet tall in August. The latest application was for a turbine 133.5 feet tall. The town’s height ordinance is 60 feet.
Palumbo and his associate, Elizabeth Holmes, argued that the turbine would be a detriment to the community, and that the negative effects that could be caused by it outweighed the benefit that Thompson Brothers would receive from the electricity produced by the windmill.
Some of those included constant ambient noise, reduced property value, and safety concerns about ice shedding or ice throw from the blades of the turbine in the winter. A representative from a solar energy company was also brought in to argue that there was a viable alternative to the turbine.
Thompson Brothers owner Dawn Trippie argued that her property is protected by the state Department of Agriculture Right to Farm laws and that residents should have known when they moved into their houses that a farm could have equipment on it such as a turbine.
“I’m going to stand behind our right to farm laws,” Trippie said. “Did they not see that there was a farm here when they bought their homes one, two, three years ago? Did they not notice what was there? Everybody built around us.”
Multiple people spoke before the board about how the turbine would negatively affect their lives. Some criticized Thompson Brothers for not being a true farm because its agricultural practices take place in a greenhouse.
Two people spoke in support of the turbine, advocating for the clean energy it would produce and the financial assistance it would provide to an agricultural business.
Trippie responded to criticism of her business that she has put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the property to keep it up and make improvements.
“I am trying to be a good neighb or,” she said. “I’m sorry they don’t like the way the field looks. It used to be a tomato farm; we used to have animals and a barn. Just because you don’t consider horticulture a farm, it still is. My fear tonight now is that it doesn’t have anything to do with this turbine anymore.”
The board denied the application, citing the dense residential community surrounding Thompson Brothers; the detrimental impacts the turbine could have on nearby properties, including property values; the availability of other options such as solar panels or smaller turbines; and the excessive height of the structure. It finally noted that Thompson Brothers had created the difficulty by selling the greenhouse’s surrounding property to residential developers.
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