According to [Rodney Votra, town supervisor], Parishville heard from both pro- and anti-wind residents that they did not want the town to negotiate a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Avangrid, instead wanting the company to pay the full amount of assessed taxes, something the town stuck to in negotiations. “That probably is a large part of why Avangrid revamped their plan,” Mr. Votra said. Parishville also had a wind law with different requirements than Hopkinton currently has on issues like sound levels and setbacks, although Hopkinton is updating its wind law, and it is unclear what the final law will require.
PARISHVILLE – The North Ridge Wind Energy Project, originally proposed as a 40 turbine project covering Hopkinton and Parishville, has been reduced to just 27 turbines in Hopkinton, according to documents filed by Avangrid Renewables, the company responsible for the project, on Friday.
“Avangrid has shifted gears and excluded Parishville,” said Rodney Votra, town supervisor. “To be honest, I’m OK with that.”
According to Paul N. Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid, the change was due to a number of factors, including technological improvements and conversations with stakeholders – although he did not clarify who those were.
“As we look at those factors, we are constantly trying to optimize our design,” Mr. Copleman said. “It’s guided by our desire to create the smallest project footprint we can.”
Mr. Copleman said they were able to achieve the same capacity with the smaller project due to better data and turbine technology, allowing them to shrink the footprint.
“That generally works best for everyone,” he said.
While Avangrid reached out to Hopkinton Town Supervisor Susan M. Wood on Friday, Votra was not contacted directly by Avangrid about the change. He attributed this lack of communication to an agreement among the county, Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District and the two towns not to meet with Avangrid unless everyone was present.
“We didn’t reach out to him directly in this instance,” Mr. Copleman said, although he declined to say why.
Mr. Votra expressed his disappointment with Ms. Wood, who was documented as meeting with Avangrid representatives on Dec. 4, according to information filed by Avangrid to the state. According to Mr. Votra, this violated the agreement of the four parties.
“It doesn’t look good for us when we have an agreement and this kind of thing is happening,” Mr. Votra said.
Ms. Wood confirmed that Avangrid representative Scott McDonald called her on Friday to alert her to the changes in the plans, and was not aware that no one had contacted Mr. Votra. She said that none of her meetings with Avangrid have been “in an official capacity.”
Ms. Wood said she would have to talk to the town board and town attorney before she knew how the changes would affect Hopkinton.
It remains unclear whether local legislation affected Avangrid’s re-designed plan at all.
According to Mr. Votra, Parishville heard from both pro- and anti-wind residents that they did not want the town to negotiate a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Avangrid, instead wanting the company to pay the full amount of assessed taxes, something the town stuck to in negotiations.
“That probably is a large part of why Avangrid revamped their plan,” Mr. Votra said.
Parishville also had a wind law with different requirements than Hopkinton currently has on issues like sound levels and setbacks, although Hopkinton is updating its wind law, and it is unclear what the final law will require.
“The wind law that was created was reasonable, there was absolutely no reason why it would deter a project,” Mr. Votra said.
Mr. Copleman refused to address whether the law or the failure to negotiate on a PILOT factored into the decision, repeatedly saying the decision was based on a number of factors, which he refused to clarify.
Mr. Votra said while he understands some residents who had leased land in Parishville to Avangrid may be upset about the change, he thinks the town will not be affected overall.
“The revenue it would have brought in wouldn’t have been very much at all,” he said. According to Mr. Votra, most of the tax revenue would have gone to the school district and the county. What was left over would be divided between the towns based on the number of turbines – which, given that Parishville was only expected to have around 10 turbines, would not have amounted to much.
“That left us on the very short end of the stick,” he said. Students in the town will still benefit from the school district funding, leaving the economic impact more or less unchanged.
Mr. Votra does some reservations about what will happen to the leases that Avangrid has already secured.
“I guess what I worry about is, are they going to sell those to another wind company?” he said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”
Parishville’s representative to the state siting board, Gary P. Snell, plans to remain in his position.
“I’ve been very involved with both communities,” Mr. Snell said. “And the project will closely involve the Parishville-Hopkinton school district, which I have been closely involved with.”
Avangrid has previously tried to remove Mr. Snell, who has a history of opposition to the North Ridge Project, from his position.
“I think we’ve stated what we’ve wanted to state on this subject,” Mr. Copleman said when asked about Avangrid’s position on Mr. Snell retaining his seat.
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