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Clayton town board and developer reach settlement on moratorium

CLAYTON – The Clayton Town Council reached an agreement with Atlantic Wind LLC that allows the moratorium on permit applications for wind energy facilities to expire Oct. 27, terminating the lawsuit filed by the developer against the town.

According to a settlement filed by attorneys Dennis C. Vacco, Albany, and Joseph W. Russell, Syracuse, both representing the Town Board and town Planning Board, and attorney James A. Muscatto II, Albany, who represents Atlantic Wind, the Town Board agreed not to extend its six-month moratorium established by Local Law No. 2. The Town Board also agreed not to establish any other moratoriums on wind energy facility applications, including applications for temporary meteorological towers. All three attorneys signed the stipulation Oct. 6.

In July, Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky set a hearing for Friday to discuss the validity of Local Law No. 2 and whether the Town Board would request an extension for the moratorium. Judge McClusky signed the settlement on Wednesday.

“With the settlement in place, the trial was unnecessary,” said Town Supervisor David M. Storandt Jr. “The town still has the position to manage its legal process without having to bear the lawsuit for the taxpayers.”

The town Planning Board agreed to review and make a decision regarding Atlantic Wind’s three meteorological tower applications at its Nov. 3 board meeting.

“The settlement does not guarantee approval,” Mr. Storandt said.

With those terms established, Atlantic Wind agreed not to file a preliminary scoping statement with the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment and its Horse Creek Wind Farm project before March 1 of next year. The developer is required to submit a preliminary scoping statement for the project’s Article 10 review process under state Public Service Law Article 10.

“The town is working on its local zoning revisions,” said Paul N. Copleman, the communications manager for Avangrid Renewables, the parent company of Atlantic Wind. “It made sense from that dialogue to wait until then.”

Mr. Storandt said that with the settlement in place, the Town Board has more time to revise its proposed wind law, Local Law No. 5, and review the town and village joint comprehensive plan.

The joint comprehensive plan committee met Thursday to review the plan and submit its final draft to the Town Board.

“(The settlement was) the best balance for the process of our comprehensive plan and the expense of our taxpayers,” Mr. Storandt said.

The Town Board will host a workshop to discuss potential revisions for Local Law No. 5 at the next Town Board meeting Oct. 26. The Town Board introduced Local Law No. 5 Aug. 24 to regulate wind energy facilities in ways that protect its citizens’ health and safety.

“We can get our attorneys lined up and see what the next step is for our wind law,” Mr. Storandt said.

The Town Board approved Local Law No. 2 and its six-month moratorium at its Apr. 28 meeting, prohibiting the town Planning Board from reviewing and deciding on Atlantic Wind’s temporary meteorological tower applications. The developer then filed an Article 78 proceeding on May 27 requesting a judge to annul the local law. In July, Judge McCulsky denied Atlantic Wind’s request.

Mr. Muscatto could not be reached for comment.