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Clayton board considers six-month moratorium on wind-related applications

CLAYTON – The Town Council withdrew its proposed ban on industrial turbines and introduced a local law on Wednesday that would impose a six-month moratorium on all wind-related applications.

The board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. April 20 to get feedback on the local law, which would provide more time for board members to explore options for preventing the siting of industrial wind turbines. The move comes as Iberdrola Renewables has said it plans to soon begin the Article 10 process led by the state Public Service Commission for its Horse Creek wind project, which would be mainly in Clayton but is expected to incorporate the towns of Orleans, Brownville and Lyme. Clayton has followed in the footsteps of Orleans, which also intends to approve a six-month moratorium.

By scrapping its proposed law, which would have repealed the town’s existing wind law and banned all industrial turbines, the board reacted to the widely held public view that doing so could be regarded as too restrictive by the state during a review of the project. The Article 10 siting board has the right to waive local laws that are considered overly burdensome.

Town board members, who are considering multiple legal approaches to prevent turbines, said after the meeting that they need more time to make the best decision. The board could decide to approve a wind law with stronger regulations, for example, or a two-layered law that would ban turbines but also call for regulations to take effect if the ban was legally overturned. The board is also seeking to hire an attorney to provide counsel on what to do, and it will conduct interviews this month for the position.

As one option, the board has considered a wind law proposed by John Droz Jr., Brantingham Lake physicist widely regarded for his expertise on regulating industrial turbines. The proposal, developed in concert with other industry experts, is titled “Local Law No. 3.” Although the document appears official, it has not been endorsed by the board.

“I feel we need to tweak it a little bit,” Councilwoman Mary Zovistoski said. “We’ll be speaking with counsel and looking at whether the recommendation is to proceed or not.”

Councilman Robert Cantwell III described Mr. Droz’s law as “one of multiple potential scenarios for the next local law.” After taking a stand against wind turbines, he said, the board is “stepping back to look at our options.”

A handful of people spoke in support of Mr. Droz’s proposal during the meeting, urging board members to set a public hearing and consider approving it. Philip J. Randazzo, owner of Coyote Moon Vineyards in Clayton, said he is among several community members who helped craft the law by providing input.

“Thousands of hours were spent to put that together, and we really exhausted everything … We have to show leadership and move this as long and as fast as we can,” he said.

Also urging swift approval of Mr. Droz’s proposal was Michael C. Ringer, an Alexandria Bay resident and Clayton business owner. He contended the board should not approve a moratorium, which would give “Iberdrola six months to work up a defense, bring in pro-wind advocates and spread pro-wind propaganda.”

The board is also considering establishing a wind advisory committee composed of residents, along with a regional committee including board members from other towns affected by the project.

Town Supervisor David Storandt Jr. said the plan to approve the moratorium likely won’t influence how the Clayton joint village and town Planning Board reacts to applications submitted by Iberdrola to put up three wind measurement towers in the town’s wind overlay district. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the applications at 7 p.m. today at the Clayton Opera House.

“We can’t influence their decision,” Mr. Storandt said.