With a copy of the Town of Freedom’s wind energy facilities law in hand, Town Supervisor Randy Lester invited residents to speak on the subject at Freedom’s June meeting. Lester stressed that the document is a local law on windmills “and has nothing to do with a contract with Invenergy.” Lester also said that other nearby towns [with whom Invenergy may be contracting for wind turbine placement] are using Freedom’s law to tailor their own wind energy laws.
Resident Daniel Meyers said he recently spoke with a man who is planning to purchase a home in Freedom and who was told by his realtor that he would not have to pay property taxes in the Town of Freedom. Meyers asked the board if, in fact, residents will receive a tax break.
“In terms of a PILOT [Payment in Lieu of Taxes] agreement; that would pay our town taxes,” said Supervisor Lester.
“So you’re saying we’ll get taxes forgiven? Meyers asked.
“Well, we can’t say that,” said Supervisor Lester, adding that the town would not see any payments at least until the year 2021.
Planning Board member Jim Shannon told Meyers that residents will not get a tax reduction, “but your taxes won’t go up at the rate they’re going.”
According to Eric Miller, Business Development Director with Invenergy, some towns that have windmill farms have seen residents’ taxes go down “considerably.”
Mary Zink, a resident and town justice, addressed the board. “I am a person that will, hopefully, get windmills on my property. My question is, are we going to get windmills?”
Said Lester, “We’re just talking about the contract right now.”
“Well, that’s a step toward it.” Zink went on to compare benefits of a windmill farm in the town, to that of a gravel pit.
“If I were to sell [property] to a gravel pit, my neighbors would get nothing. With windmills, not only the town, but people within a certain circle are benefiting. There is a kid on the road next to us who’s killing himself farming, and this will help him and his family. Farmers are having a tough time right now; they’re losing money with the price of beef, milk, heifers, and salaries [of farm workers]. John Borer has 40 employees.”
Stephanie Milks of Freedom United [against Invenergy/wind farms] asked board members when they will address her (and others’) request for a property value guarantee. Lester said that the planning board members agreed on the final draft of the law, which does not include a property value guarantee.
Milks asked why the planning board will not include a request of a property value guarantee from the wind energy company in the law. “Because they [planning board members] agreed to not put it in,” said Lester.
Milks then asked why the Town of Freedom could not be the leader with regard to having the requested language (re: property value guarantee) in a law that other towns are modeling. Lester said the town board and planning board “are doing what’s best for the town.”
Following discussion, Supervisor Lester said he will ask the board to vote on the law at the next board meeting (July 16).
Councilman Ann Marie Dixon addressed Milks’s request, stating that she had spoken to an Invenergy representative who explained to her that it is, in fact, difficult to place a property guarantee clause in a law because people have abused such clauses in the past. Councilman Dixon said that if there should be an issue with a property, and the property owner contacts the wind energy company, the company will help the property owner deal with it.
In other business, the board:
Announced that there will be a planning board work session on July 9. The public may attend a work session; however, unlike at regular board meetings, members of the public are not permitted to comment or ask questions.
Heard that there is a garbage collection company in town whose trucks are losing items. “He needs to secure his load,” said Highway Superintendent James Haggerty of the truck driver(s). “I’m tired of picking stuff out of ditches.”
Heard that during a recent meeting of the planning board, the dog control officer, justices, and Code Enforcement Officer Pat Cummings, the group discussed issues related to the town’s dog laws and junk laws. “We definitely need to do some work,” Supervisor Lester said, noting a specific residence that is often the subject of complaints about junk. While there was some confusion regarding the town’s dog control laws, with regard to the DCO’s responsibilities and the justices, Justice Gary Chamberlain stated that much of the confusion has been cleared up.
Heard that Councilman Dixon is working with Triple A State of Play to ensure that the playground equipment can be installed after Aug. 3 – once the summer rec program is done for the season. After a comment regarding the time and effort it seems to be taking to get the playground equipment installed, Dixon reiterated that the board ordered the equipment not realizing that the installation did not come with the purchase. “You think we don’t care; we do,” Dixon stressed. “You have no idea how much we think about this.”
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