Town of Parishville not interested in PILOTS from wind farms; board passes local wind law establishing setbacks, sound output limits
PARISHVILLE – The Parishville Town Board unanimously passed a local wind law at their meeting June 22 establishing wind turbine setbacks and sound output limits. However, the town is not interested in payments in lieu of taxes – PILOTS – from a large-scale wind power project planned to be built by Avangrid Renewables.
The proposed wind farm has divided the Parishville and Hopkinton communities as residents verbally spar over how far wind towers should be placed from homes, what allowable sound levels produced by the towers should be and other environmental and health concerns.
“The town will now file the law with state, county and everywhere else it needs to be filed,” Parishville Town Superintendent Rodney Votra said.
Avangrid’s North Ridge Wind Farm calls for about 40 wind towers, about 500 feet high, to be built in Hopkinton and Parishville.
Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) are tax breaks in the form of payments by a developer to local governments that are lower than full property taxes would be.
“We want the full tax assessment,” Votra said.
“It’s in the state and Avangrid’s hands now,” Votra said about the process.
Meanwhile, following a change in Town of Hopkinton ethics law, a town councilman who was previously abstaining from voting on wind farm issues due to a conflict of interest will now be eligible to vote.
The St. Lawrence County Planning Board and two Hopkinton town councilmen have suggested that wind turbine setbacks and the wind overlay zone may be too restrictive.
The planning board recommended that the Town of Hopkinton board change setbacks, allowing them to be closer to property lines.
Taxes Instead of PILOTS
The community has been concerned that the wind farm developers will ask for major tax breaks in the form of PILOTS. The town is not interested in PILOTS, Votra said.
Votra said residents were fairly split in a survey about the desire to have wind towers at all, but nearly all who participated were against PILOTS.
“The anti- and pro-wind people were not okay with PILOTS,” Votra said.
Community members are concerned local governments, taxpayers and schools will lose out if they are persuaded to allow developers to pay a special lower amount than they would pay if the project was properly assessed and charged at regular property tax rates.
Votra agreed, saying that he did not want taxpayers getting stuck with financial woes, even 30 years from now.
“We want to listen to the people and go with what they want,” Votra said.
Law to be Filed With State
The Power NY Act of 2011 established a process for the siting of electric generating facilities and re-powering projects. As part of the process, a multi-agency siting board will “streamline” the permitting process for power plants of 25 megawatts (MW) or greater.
The law calls for setbacks of wind towers to be five times the height of the wind tower from the property line of a non-participating landowner. If the towers are 500 feet high, as projected, setbacks would be 2,500 feet. That distance would apply to the foundation of the residence of a participating landowner.
The local law calls for sound to be at 45 decibels or below from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and 35 decibels from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. from a participating landowners residence.
Votra said the siting board in Albany will review the law to see if it is overly burdensome to wind tower companies or if anything is “out of line.”
Avangrid can review the law and have discussions with the siting board about the law the Town of Parishville has set.
He was unsure about how long the process would take.
Votra said the law gives the town “a new platform to work from which sets the bar to today’s standards and technology” relating to wind towers.
“We’re pretty much at a standstill – waiting on Albany and Avangrid,” he said.
The town board is set to meet June 27 at 10 a.m.
Wind Dividing Community
Many residents have been vocal about their displeasure with the setbacks and sound allowance, citing safety and health issues, at public meetings and via opinion sections of newspapers.
Parishville Town Councilman Conrad Cook says the majority of the people in the community that he has spoken to feel the wind turbines will be an “eyesore” in the North Country.
Cook claims that wind turbines need an average of 15 miles per hour of wind to be efficient, and that that the average wind speed in Parishville is about nine miles per hour.
Cook said, “I feel sorry for the people who have signed leases – I understand they can use the money, but if they are so good then why not put them in Albany and the city?”
Although he does not like the idea of a large-scale wind farm in northern New York, Cook was pleased with the law passed.
He said he still has concerns over “the look of them” in a country setting, tax incentives being rolled back for wind companies by President Trump, and the alleged lack of efficiency they would provide.
Cook wonders what will happen if government funding ends and wind farms are longer as lucrative.
Cook wished to thank the planning board and the Concerned Citizens for Rural Preservation for getting information out and getting the community involved.
Town Councilwoman Keri Tremper has said previously that citizens showed emotion both for and against the wind farm.
“Some (are) happy with the law and some who don’t want the law at all,” she said.
“There are several (residents) that are not happy with the wind developers being here – they want to say no to the whole idea,” Tremper said.
Tremper did not agree with that sentiment.
“It is not the best avenue to just say no,” she said. “Article 10 will come in – the governor is pushing for renewable energy.”
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