The Catlin Town Board unanimously passed tight regulations intended to be a de facto ban on commercial wind turbines Thursday, putting a large-scale wind project by Florida-based NextEra Energy in doubt.
The regulations were drafted by the Citizens Wind Committee, a group opposed to wind farms, before being approved by the town. No one spoke against the regulations at a public hearing Thursday before the law was adopted.
“It was reviewed by the town attorney, town board and the planning board,” said Catlin Town Supervisor LaVerne Phelps. “It went through all the phases any other local law would go through.”
The law lists concerns about property values and aesthetics, environmental impacts as well as the roughly 400-foot-tall turbines being a nuisance or causing health effects from sound emissions or “shadow flicker” for residents.
The regulations include significant setbacks from property lines, homes and areas such as such as state forests; as well as limits on sound emissions. It also makes wind companies compensate residents for drops in property value, and cover any medical bills from health problems caused by living near turbines.
Catlin residents and officials at one point considered an outright ban, but were worried a ban could be struck down as illegal under the state laws that govern siting of wind farms. So they opted for regulations intended to discourage energy companies from trying to put wind farms in Catlin, Phelps said.
The process began in 2012 after NextEra, one of the nation’s largest power companies, proposed a $200 million wind farm with 50 to 75 turbines across Chemung and Schuyler counties, promising tax revenues, host community payments and lease payments for landowners.
The project was centered around putting turbines on the 1,500-acre property of Watkins Glen International, whose parent company, International Speedway Corp., is a corporate partner of NextEra.
NextEra just built a large solar farm at ISC’s Daytona International Speedway, WGI President Michael Printup said.
While the race track is in the Town of Dix, the majority of turbines wound up being sited in Catlin as the NextEra project evolved.
“I think Catlin’s a huge piece of it, so I think ultimately what Catlin is doing is the death knell, but I guess we’ll have to see,” Printup said.
Ryan Pumford, project manager for NextEra, said the company would review Catlin’s new regulations before deciding whether to proceed with the project.
The Town of Dix passed its own wind regulations a couple of months ago that were less restrictive than Catlin’s, Dix Town Supervisor Harold Russell said.
“We basically played it right down the middle,” Russell said. “You have to balance the landowners’ rights against everybody that doesn’t want to look at (the turbines) and isn’t going make anything off of them.”