FREMONT – The winds of change blew in Fremont on Tuesday, as the town board voted on five proposals regarding wind generation within their jurisdiction.
The five proposals included: Raising the maximum height of turbines to 500 feet, removing decibel requirement from properties that signed leases with the wind company; expanding work hours on the project to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; changing setbacks from property lines from 1.5 times the height of a turbine to 1.1 times the height; and subtracting salvage value from decommissioning costs.
The proposals came as a suggestion of EverPower, a company seeking to locate 43 turbines inside the 21 square mile town in the near future.
The resolutions were delivered as a single package, but board member Michael Whitman suggested that the proposals be severed into five motions to be separately scrutinized.
The laws being amended were first passed in 2008.
After some confusion following a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Chairman Ron Faulkner told board members that he consulted with Town Supervisors in Howard and Cohocton who had been through the process before.
In Howard, he was advised that the process between board approval, and actually generating energy took more than seven years, from 2004 to 2011 when turbines were finally installed.
“2012 was the first year they were operational,” he said.
However, the Howard Wind Farm was installed during a time before Article 10, a state law requiring more stringent permitting was signed into law – Making the prospective timeline an apples-to-oranges comparison, according to Faulkner.
He was further advised by the tax collector that they were able to reduce taxes by 23 percent immediately, and that property values were largely unaffected by the presence of generators.
“That may help keep people’s fears at bay to some extent.”
However, going ahead with projects does little to change hearts and minds, according to Faulkner’s research.
“People who were not in favor of these electrical generators being installed before, still don’t like them,” he said.
“I’d like to see the setback stay the same and the bonding requirement stay the same, The working hours and the height make no difference.” Frank Owens said, opening debate.
Wightman seconded his feelings.
Board member Bud Phelps wished to see a wholesale change of the rules that EverPower favored.
“I think we ought to go along with all these other towns that have the setback and height and noise level, and been the same rather than being the oddball of all the towns around,” he said. “We are all benefiting from this tremendously. We may not see it right off, quick like, but there will be a reduction in taxes, maybe a new town hall, and the fire company would benefit.”
The maximum height was raised unanimously; the board chose to exempt lease signees from the decibel limit in a unanimous vote; work hours for the wind farm were expanded to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. by a unanimous vote; but the board favored keeping setback rules the same for all properties public and private, at 1.5 times the height of the structure.
The failure to change some of the measures did not seem to be a deal-breaker for representatives of the company who were present at the meeting. However, engineering reports will determine whether the project will be limited as a result.
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