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County Planning Board tables decision on wind project

The Chautauqua County Planning Board tabled its decision regarding a proposed amendment to the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project in Villenova and Hanover that would allow wind turbines to reach 599 feet, taller than any land-based turbines in the country. The decision came after a nearly hour-long discussion between the board, town attorneys and project manager for the energy project.

In its decision to table the request, the Planning Board said it wanted to see more information – namely what impact raising the maximum height of the turbines would have – before coming to a conclusion.

However, even before a vote to table the decision was made, several members of the board made it clear they had misgivings over the proposed height change from 495 to 599. Some members noted that no official from either town showed up to speak in favor of the zoning change; a letter of support was sent from Richard Ardillo, Villenova Town supervisor.

Mark Lyons, project manager for Ball Hill Wind Farm, said new advances in wind turbines are available that will allow for greater energy output – something that wasn’t available when permits for the wind project was approved two years ago. He said increasing the maximum height will increase the chances of the project succeeding.

When asked Wednesday if the project could work without larger wind turbines, Lyons said “I can’t say for sure. The chances for success are not as good.”

RES, the company behind the wind parks project in the towns of Villenova and Hanover, has submitted applications to both town boards for an amendment to local zoning laws allowing the extra 100 feet.

The Planning Board is hoping to hear back from both town boards allowing a 30-day extension to gather more information and possibly take the request to a vote. The planning could then make its recommendation on the zoning changes.