RANDOLPH – After much consideration and research, the Randolph Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously denied a special use permit to Atlantic Wind LLC at this month’s meeting.
Atlantic Wind LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables LLC, was seeking a permit to install a temporary 60-meter (196-foot) meteorological tower at 3018 Sample Hill Road. The tower was for the purpose of testing wind resource to determine if it would be feasible to build a permanent tower.
Prior to a public hearing held in January, the company had already approached several landowners in the area regarding leasing their land. Having many questions about met towers that could potentially lead to wind farms, the board postponed a decision on the permit until they could visit the town of Bliss where a large wind farm has been in production for several years. While visiting Bliss in February, members of the board spoke with town officials and homeowners to find out what the local consensus was about the wind farm in the area.
According to Gary Barton, chairman, after studying industrial wind development and visiting sites in Wyoming County, the Zoning Board of Appeals had concerns about the project meeting the requirements of Randolph’s zoning ordinance.
Board member Paul Steward presented six points that effected the board’s decision. He said several clauses in the Atlantic Wind contract take away landowner rights and are in conflict with the “intent and purpose” of the Town of Randolph Code.
“Most concerning are the easement and waiver of nuisance sections that waive any right landowners may have to object to – audio, visual, view, light, flicker, noise, vibration, air turbulence, wake, electromagnetic, electrical and radio frequency interference, and any other effects attributable to any project or the operations of any project; and an exclusive easement to permit the rotors of wind power facilities located on adjacent properties to overhang the property,” he said.
Continuing, Steward said other clauses that adversely relate to the code’s intent and purpose include additional standalone easements for no consideration, questionable taxing, inadequate crop and timber damage renumeration, acquisition of interests without landowner’s consent and the gag order placed on the property owner. He said a study needs to be done on each of these waived nuisances as to the effects on adjacent property owners before granting any industrial wind development.
Referring to the criteria for granting special use permits, Steward said more research is needed to address each of these criteria because the project is suggesting larger turbines than those currently used in surrounding areas. He said a clearer picture of concerns and effects on the total Randolph community needs to be evaluated.
The board was also concerned about the future utility scale wind development, which is primarily supported by federal and state funds, and sometimes local tax breaks. Steward said another concern is what will happen as the physical structures that get taxpayers’ support stop and the project is no longer profitable, and if the current means of security funds for disposal are favorable to the town of Randolph.
“There’s an uncertainty as to the outcome of the many lawsuits and petitions in surrounding areas related to industrial wind development,” he said. “Our town needs to evaluate the surrounding area’s situation to avoid future litigation.”
According to Steward, the board needs time to bring the code up-to-date concerning large-scale industrial wind development that has increased the size and the output of generation systems. They need to address the concerns of effected residents in proximity of the wind turbines and determine how far away individuals are effected. He said a study also needs to be made on the effect of property values in the areas that have had industrial wind development.
As he opened the floor for discussion, Barton said the board felt it was in the best interest of the Town of Randolph and the project proposer that the listed concerns be addressed before any development is allowed.
A lengthy and somewhat contentious debate ensued between the board; James A. Muscato II, an attorney representing Atlantic Wind LLC interests; and Jeff Reinkemeyer, a representative from Iberdrola-Atlantic Wind LLC. Community member Linda Inkley had a couple of questions for the company relating to not registering leases.
Addressing Muscato, Barton said when a business has physical presence, in Randolph, it needs to have a business permit, which Atlantic Wind has not applied for. In looking at that permit, the board would want to consider what is going to happen with that business.
“In our case, your permit for this tower leads to an industrial wind development,” he said. “We want to be very sure we have everything in our community set to the benefit of our community before we make any proceeding that goes toward this wind tower industrial development.”
Barton said the zoning board is going to take the time to be sure the Randolph code is going to protect the property owners around the wind towers, as well as the people who have them on their land.
“What we are doing is denying this particular met tower, which is a precursor to the development, to hold it off long enough so we have time to get our ‘ducks in a row’ so to speak, to take care of it,” he said.
The second purpose of the meeting was for the removal of a temporary meteorological testing tower at tax property 87.002-1-22.1, located in the southwest corner of the Town of Randolph, which the board unanimously agreed upon.
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