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Reindeer farmer gets OK for two windmills on one Hamburg property

Mike Jablonski has spent the last three years trying to get permission from the Town of Hamburg to erect two wind turbines at his reindeer farm on Lakeview Road.

Jablonski isn’t tilting at windmills anymore, after the Town Board last week voted 2-1 in favor of amending the town law that would permit two windmills on a residential property.

But there was a heated debate before the change was made. Supervisor Steven J. Walters and Building Inspector Kurt Allen opposed changing the law to accommodate one person, while Board Member Tom Best Jr. argued the town was hurting Jablonski.

“I don’t think the concern with this law is specifically related to your property,” Walters told Jablonski at a work session. “Your property is suitable for two windmills. The problem is when you change a code, it doesn’t just affect your property. It affects every property in the Town of Hamburg.”

Best said he thought personal animosity between the building inspector and Jablonski was behind the town’s actions to limit the number of windmills to one.

“You had a friendship in the past, it doesn’t exist and there’s a personality conflict,” Best said. “I feel he’s been treated unfairly, I feel he hasn’t been heard, and I feel there is a personal agenda somewhere to block his project.”

Allen denied personal feelings have anything to do with his stance.

“We have one applicant. We’re driving legislation for the general good of this community for one applicant – that’s what I’m against,” Allen said.

Jablonski said he thought he was targeted by the town.

“I think you put this law in to keep me from getting my windmills, to be quite honest,” he said.

The existing law allowed one wind energy conversion system, a WEC, otherwise known as a windmill, on one residential-agricultural property with at least 10 acres. Jablonski wanted to put up two wind turbines to power his barn and his house, but the town law prohibited it.

Best argued that if there were two 10-acre properties next to each other, there could be two windmills erected, but not on a property of 20 acres or larger.

The town’s Code Review Committee and the Planning Board recommended against changing the law. Allen said the amendment could affect as many as 30 properties, where up to 60 windmills could be built. Planning Consultant Drew Reilly said he thought the number of affected parcels was more like a dozen.

“It does have ramifications,” Reilly said of the change. “The more you make it easy to put two wind turbines up, you may get sites with two wind turbines.”

Reilly said the systems are not allowed on vacant property, and they must be associated with a use.

“A second wind turbine could not be placed on a property that only contained a single family home, as a single family home would not have the energy usage to warrant a second wind turbine,” Reilly said.

Jablonski did get permission for one agricultural windmill, but the town law would not have allowed a second windmill on his property.