In what seems like a flashback from a 1990s landfill controversy, the Farmersville community is once again split over environmental issues and host payments.
A public meeting Monday night, called by the Farmersville Town Board to hear comments on the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, drew nearly 200 people.
Most attending the meeting at the Farmersville Fire Hall either opposed the proposed 23 nearly 600-foot wind turbines in the town or wanted protections including greater set-backs from property lines, guarantees that property values would not decline.
A few speakers favored the project, which would bring more than 100 turbines in the towns of Arcade, Centerville, Rushford, Freedom and Farmersville. The proposed towers are 361 feet tall and with the 225-foot blades fully extended the height is 586 feet.
Inventergy spokesman Eric Miller said more than 100 landowners on 25,000 acres have signed leases with the company. If approved by the New York State Siting Board, the project would be built in 2020.
Miller said the landowner payments will come in handy to area farmers who are leasing to Invenergy. A lot of people have been supportive of the proposed project.
“It’s important not to confuse set-backs with safety,” he said in remarks prior to public comment.
When operational, Alle-Catt would generate $7 million for the local economy, including $1 million in payroll for a manager and a dozen wind technicians to maintain the wind farm, $2.7 million in landowner fees and $3.2 million in host fees and P.I.L.O.T. (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements.
Company literature points out that over the first 25 years of operation, project revenue will exceed $175 million. That includes $360,000 a year for a P.I.L.O.T. and host fees for the town of Farmersville and $450,000 for the town of Freedom with 34 wind turbines.
Centerville would get $440,0000 for 29 turbines, Rushford $140,000 for 10 turbines and $220,000 for nine turbines in Arcade, which is in Wyoming County.
Cattaraugus and Allegany counties would get $380,000 and $300,000 a year in P.I.L.O.T. payments. Pioneer Central School would get $330,000, Franklinville Central would get $100,000, Fillmore Central $130,000 and Cuba-Rushford Central $150,000.
One Farmersville resident read a letter from local Amish farmers who expressed concern for their health and that of their animals. They also were concerned about the heavy traffic on local roads during construction, especially with their buggies and children on the roads. The Amish said they opposed the wind turbines on their property on religious grounds.
Barry Abner told the town board members they would be making a decision that will impact the town for decades to come. He was the first of many speakers to ask for a 3,000-foot set-back from neighbors property lines for the wind turbines.
Neighbors are also concerned about light flicker, vibrations and noise. The noise level at a property line should be 39 dbl, Abner said.
“The decisions you make will affect this community for generations,” he said. “I came here to get away from all the city has to offer.”
That refrain was repeated several times during almost two hours of public comment. Several people identified themselves as having recently joined Farmersville United, a group of residents opposed to the industrial-sized turbines. One speaker noted “they will be the tallest structures in all upstate.”
Lois Lane offered a different view.
“I’m all for the windmills,” she said. “They’re not an eye-sore” and represent an opportunity for the community. She added she thought the 3,000-foot set-back was “ridiculous.”
Ginger Schroder, a Farmersville resident and attorney advising groups opposed to the 380-mw Invenergy wind farm, urged the town board to model their local law on a 2018 law adopted in Orangeville, N.Y. She urged the board to “pass a good and protective law,” not one that was “based on outdated standards.” The board has based its proposed local law on a 2008 Orangeville law.
Most speakers talked about the beauty of the area and how the loudest sounds are birds and spring peepers.
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