CLAYTON – The landscape has shifted for the Clayton Town Council, which is now considering multiple approaches to combat the Horse Creek Wind Farm.
One option that might be introduced during its meeting at 5 p.m. today would be to consider approving a six-month moratorium on all wind-related actions, town Supervisor David Storandt Jr. said. The town’s proposed local law that would repeal its existing wind law and impose an outright ban on industrial turbines will be on the agenda for discussion, he said, but no action will be taken.
Mr. Storandt said the board has agreed that more time is needed to determine the best approach against the still-undefined wind project being planned by Iberdrola Renewables, which would be mainly in Clayton but is expected to incorporate the towns of Orleans, Lyme and Brownville. The Orleans Town Council intends to approve a six-month moratorium on wind applications, and Mr. Storandt said that Clayton might follow suit.
“We know we have some good information, but we need some time to digest it and want to avoid an emotional reaction,” he said Tuesday.
Board members don’t want to take too much time, however, because Iberdrola has said it intends to soon start the pre-application process for a state-led Article 10 review of its project.
The board still has a lot of homework.
For example, it’s still looking to hire an attorney to provide counsel on wind regulations. Mr. Storandt said that although the board tentatively decided last month to hire Daniel A. Spitzer, an attorney for Hodgson Russ LLP, Buffalo, to provide a $2,000 initial consultation, that contract wasn’t finalized. After listening to community feedback about the move, he said, the board decided to search for another lawyer.
He said the board is considering multiple approaches for how to handle industrial turbines, which board members contend would scar the region’s beauty, decrease property values and jeopardize the area’s tourism-based economy. He said the goal will be to choose the approach that has the best likelihood of preventing turbines altogether, keeping in mind that an Article 10 siting board could overturn a law that is deemed overly burdensome.
He said the board could either approve an already-proposed ban on industrial turbines, an updated wind law with stronger regulations, or a two-layered law that would call for both a ban on turbines and regulations that would be triggered if the ban is legally overturned.
Mr. Storandt said board members were somewhat frustrated about the manner in which John Droz Jr. proposed a wind law that was widely discussed during a public hearing last month. That proposal, developed by the Brantingham Lake physicist in concert with other industry experts, is titled “Local Law No. 3.” But although it looks like an official document, the proposal was never endorsed by the board.
“I think there are some good points in what he has proposed that are worth consideration, but the board is irritated that he packaged it like a local law,” Mr. Storandt said, adding that the misleading title confused the public. “It’s just a citizen document, but it looks like it’s legitimate.”
To fully explore its options, he said, the board could decide to establish a pair of wind committees. One could be a wind advisory committee composed of residents, while the other could be a regional committee that would include board members from other towns affected by the project.
Mr. Storandt added that a committee has worked for about three years on an update to the town’s comprehensive plan, and he is hopeful it will be considered this summer by the board for approval. He said that the plan could possibly be used by the town as a basis for updating its zoning law to better account for industrial turbines.
“If a revised comprehensive plan is ready, it would provide groundwork for expanding our zoning law to be like Cape Vincent’s,” he said. “But I don’t know if we’ll have enough time to do that. The town wants to make its position clear before there’s an Article 10 application.”
In Cape Vincent’s case, wind regulations are built into the town’s zoning law. It doesn’t have a wind law.
Officials involved in Cape Vincent’s standoff with BP Wind Energy have argued it would be a risky gamble for Clayton to ban turbines because an Article 10 siting board could reject considering such a law, deciding it’s unreasonable. They contended the development of a strong zoning law is the most effective ammunition against wind projects.