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Yates passes moratorium on wind energy conversion systems

YATES – The Yates Town Board passed a six-month moratorium on wind energy conversion systems at Thursday’s meeting.

According to Town Supervisor Jim Simon, the board voted unanimously to approve the moratorium. In addition to have a zoning amendment involving regulation of wind energy conversion systems the town needs to consider, Simon said Yates has an old joint comprehensive plan with the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway and the villages of Medina and Lyndonville.

“If you Google (the comprehensive plan), I think wind comes up for windshields, and westerly winds prevail in our area,” Simon said. “That’s about it. There’s not much about sustainability and green energy, and all of that. So, it’s time to review and redo our comprehensive plan, which will be a pretty big effort.”

The third reason for the moratorium is because of the Lake Waterfront Revitalization Program, which is slated to be redone and is older than the comprehensive plan itself.

The LWRP is a joint plan between Yates, Carlton and Kendall.

“The LWRP could inform how we look at wind energy facilities because we’re trying, as we have done for years, to work closely agencies – especially state and in some cases, federal agencies – to make sure we’re doing what we should be doing along the lakefront, to make sure it is remaining vital, and in some cases being revitalized to give them due protection,” he said.

The board also returned the MET Tower special use permit application, stating it an Agricultural Data Statement was not completed. Lighthouse Wind can resubmit the form with the needed information with no additional cost.

Although the moratorium does apply to the MET Tower, Lighthouse Wind will be able to submit a special use variance permit to construct the structure.

“The town does have to entertain that variance,” Simon said. “I don’t know if they will submit it again. It’s up to the developer.

“There is an avenue for someone to ask for a variance, and if it is in fact requested then we will reassess it at that time.”

The towers are a significant factor in determining if or where a wind energy facility will be located.

“Meteorological towers are important tools for gathering weather and environmental data,” said Lighthouse Wind Development Manager Taylor Quarles.

“The temporary meteorological tower currently being proposed in Yates is identical to the tower which was previously approved by the Yates Town Board in 2015,” he continued. “The current application under consideration was reviewed and unanimously accepted by the Yates Planning Board at their May 5, 2016 meeting. Moving forward, we intend to work with the Yates Town Board to provide any additional information they require for a thorough review of this application.”

Yates is still working on an amendment to its zoning law, and Simon said he believes it will be finished before next month’s meeting. If that’s the case, the board will conduct a special meeting and issue a notice a week prior.

Simon said the board received a letter Thursday from Taylor Quarles of Lighthouse Wind requesting a meeting to discuss about any impacts the company’s proposal would have on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

The supervisor said his main concern – which he raised to Quarles during the public comment period – was that the meeting was being called outside of the stipulations process.

“What (the stipulations process) is, we are in the Article 10 process, phase 2. The Preliminary Scoping Statement has, at the end of that phase if you will, a stipulations process (where) the applicant and any parties to the case sit down and try to negotiate what the scope of studies will be,” he said. “That’s the key.

“They are proposing studies in 40 different areas, as required by law. … One of the areas is aviation and the effect on aviation.

“So, because of that, they proposed in their PSS, and subsequent to that and other stuff, what the scope of that study should be and what it should entail.”

The problem, however, is Simon said the board was told by Albany in no uncertain terms all stipulation negotiations are to be done under confidentiality.

“So I said to Taylor, ‘Is this step part of stipulations?’” Simon said.

When Quarles said no, it was just a meeting, the supervisor continued, “Well I said, ‘We’ve been just told – you and me – the administration law judges consider anything that is a stipulations topic, and aviation and impact on aviation is one of those, that it would have to be under stipulations in which case it was confidential we shouldn’t be having this meeting.”

Simon said the two went back and forth, but by the time the two were done he believed Quarles understood his concerns.

“I would normally take this letter and say, ‘Great! Let’s set down and talk,’” he said. “Now I’m being told by the judges of the hearing exam, the people who are going to make these decisions at the state level, all this needs to be done under confidentiality and only with parties that are part of this negotiations.”

The board is having its special counsel attorney review the request, and there will be an answer to Lighthouse Wind by early next week.