Gary P. Snell, chair of Concerned Citizens of Rural Preservation, said he was “very disappointed” that county lawmakers delayed voting on the policy. “A week ago I was told there was only one dissent on the board regarding this. Tonight, Rick tells me he hasn’t got the votes to pass it, so he wants table it. That concerns me, who got to who?” Mr. Snell said. “It just troubles me. I wish I knew what changed peoples’ minds.”
CANTON – To the dismay of wind farm opponents, St. Lawrence County legislators have decided they’re not ready to adopt a county-wide policy that would essentially prohibit large-scale wind developers from receiving payment-in-lieu of tax agreements.
At their June 26 Finance Committee meeting, the majority of county lawmakers voted for a resolution that would require wind developers to make payments to taxing jurisdictions that are equal to what they would pay in property taxes. To finalize the action, the measure needed to be approved again at Monday night’s full board meeting.
However, lawmakers unanimously tabled the resolution at the request of sponsor Rick Perkins, D-Parishville.
“There’s been a lot of discussion and a lot of questions that have come up. There is some research we need to do,” Mr. Perkins said. “There have been no wind companies that have been without a PILOT in New York State.”
Mr. Perkins said lawmakers need to conduct more research before creating a county-wide policy that could impact all 32 towns, not just Parishville and Hopkinton where developers have proposed building North Ridge Industrial Wind Farm.
Gary P. Snell, chair of Concerned Citizens of Rural Preservation, said he was “very disappointed” that county lawmakers delayed voting on the policy.
“A week ago I was told there was only one dissent on the board regarding this. Tonight, Rick tells me he hasn’t got the votes to pass it, so he wants table it. That concerns me, who got to who?” Mr. Snell said. “It just troubles me. I wish I knew what changed peoples’ minds.”
Mr. Perkins said questions have arisen regarding how wind companies would be assessed for property taxes, such as whether the amount of energy produced would be a factor in determining assessment.
“We need to talk to some people who have done this who can enlighten us as to which path is a better path for the county,” Mr. Perkins said.
The county’s policy was developed and recommended by the county Legislature’s wind committee, an ad hoc group created in response to a proposal by Avangrid to install an industrial wind farm in the towns of Parishville and Hopkinton. The proposal calls for 40 turbines up to 500 feet high.
The proposed policy is restricted to developers that produce more than 25 megawatts of wind and was modeled after a policy used in neighboring Jefferson County.
Legislator Larry D. Denesha, R-DeKalb, said he originally supported the proposal, but is now concerned that “one-size fits all policy” for taxing potential energy developers might not be wise.
Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Louisville, said he was also opposed to passing a blanket policy that could prevent future development in the county.
During public comment, Kevin Beary, Colton, told legislators that solar developers should be included in the PILOT policy the county is considering for wind farms.
Legislator David W. Forsythe, R-Lisbon, offered an amendment to add solar to the policy, but his motion failed after it was unable to garner a second.
Mr. Perkins has said a survey distributed to residents in both Hopkinton and Parishville showed that supporters and opponents of the North Ridge wind project were opposed to PILOT agreements for wind developers. The survey did not question residents about PILOTs for other forms of energy.
However, he said the county Legislature should be cautious about adopting a policy that impacts all the county’s towns.
“We haven’t looked at other communities and what their thought processes are,” Mr. Perkins said. “We have to make sure not to encompass everybody into something maybe not everybody should be in.”
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