PARISHVILLE – Some residents opposed to the North Ridge Wind Farm project in Parishville are concerned about suggested revisions to the definition of residences for the purpose of turbine setbacks. They say the proposed changes, targeting hunting camps, could apply to Amish homes as well.
In a letter to the Parishville Town Planning Board, Avangrid Renewables, the company behind the wind farm, asked that hunting camps not be considered residences for the purpose of the town’s mandated setbacks for turbines. The company argues that such camps do not meet the legal definition of a dwelling, citing the lack of plumbing and electricity at such camps as evidence that the camps are not “habitable.”
The letter was sent to the board in May, but Janice R. Pearse, a concerned resident, says she only found the letter two weeks ago. She thought that the definition of hunting camp might apply to local Amish homes, given that they do not have indoor plumbing or electricity.
Ms. Pearse says she took the memo door to door, asking Amish families for their input, and that they shared her concern. Given that the Amish usually do not vote for religious reasons, she released a public statement calling for support from non-Amish residents.
“I think the Amish would consider (turbines) a question for their English neighbors,” said Karen Johnson-Weiner, a SUNY Potsdam professor of anthropology who writes about Amish communities. “(But) any time there’s change that can affect their cropland, their way of life, they’re going to be concerned about that.”
The letter from Avangrid explains that a residence must consist of one or more dwellings, which must include “complete housekeeping facilities … including living, cooking, sanitary and sleeping facilities.” This definition of dwelling does not include any requirement for modern amenities, which Mrs. Pearse acknowledges may mean that Amish homes do fit the definition of a residence.
“The Amish do have kitchens and such, to an extent,” she said. But in order to insure that Amish homes are considered residences, “there has to be a distinction made publicly, and there hasn’t been.”
Ms. Johnson-Weiner also said the Amish sometimes live in temporary structures not unlike hunting camps.
“Many young Amish couples start life in what’s called a skid house, a temporary residence,” she said, while they build a barn and more permanent housing.
According to Joseph R. McGill, the town code officer, the setbacks should apply to any place people live, whatever kind of facilities are present.
“As far as assessment goes, New York state does not recognize ‘hunting camps,’” he said. Mr. McGill labels hunting camps as seasonal residences, which are still legally residences.
“If you are living there any time of the year, it counts as a residence,” said Mr. McGill. “I think (the setbacks) should apply to hunting camps.”
The suggestions from Avangrid would have to be incorporated into the town’s Wind Energy Facilities Law before applying to any setbacks.
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