MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Planning Board decided to table its decision regarding a proposed amendment to the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project in the towns of Villenova and Hanover. The change in local zoning laws would allow wind turbines to go from 495 feet to 599 feet in maximum height, taller than any land-based turbines in the country.
The potential precedent-setting decision has come under intense opposition from some area residents who fear taller wind turbines would mean increased shadow flicker, cellphone and television interference, bat/bird mortality and greater decommission costs.
The Ball Hill Wind Energy project is a 100V wind farm with 23 turbines permitted for operation in Villenova and six in Hanover. Renewable Energy System (RES) is heading the project and is hoping to increase energy output with the larger units.
The Planning Board said it wanted to see more information – namely what impact raising the maximum height of the turbines would have – before making a recommendation to both town boards.
However, even before a vote to table the decision was made Wednesday, several members of the board made it clear they had misgivings over the proposed height change given that permits for 495-foot turbines were approved just two years ago.
The amended application does not include an increase in setback (currently at 1,000 feet) between the location of each turbine and a neighboring road or home. Mark Lyons, project manager for Ball Hill Wind Farm pointed out, however, that most of the setbacks are beyond that at 1,200 feet, with just one at 1,190 feet.
Lyons 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 were first approved. He said increasing the maximum height will increase the chances of the project succeeding.
Lyons said the new turbines reach a height of 568 feet.
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.”
Some Planning Board members expressed frustration 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.
Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, who attended the meeting, told the board afterward he was against the amendment. He said the 599 feet equates to a 60-story building.
“If I wanted to build a 60-story building on my property, I think a lot of people would have a problem with it,” Borrello said.
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 board could then make its recommendation on the zoning changes.
In other news, the proposed relocation of the Anew Center from Jamestown to Ellery received a significant boost Wednesday with approval regarding a zoning law amendment from the Chautauqua County Planning Board.
The Salvation Army – which has run the center for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault for by 30 years – is seeking to move operations to a more spacious location outside the city. The new building would allow for 19 staff and about 20 beds.
Attorney Adam Walters said the current Anew Center is “just not suited for the current needs,” and noted the property requires several renovations.
The process to find an alternative facility for the center has been in the works for 15 years, Salvation Army Finance Manager Jeremy Swanson said recently.
Two town hall-style meetings were held in Ellery to allow public input on the $2.5 million project. At those meetings, Walters said many concerns of local residents were documented and addressed. Those who raised concerns questioned security and potential for violence with bringing a shelter to the area.
Walters noted that the Salvation Army found the project site to be well-equipped for safety of the residents. He said there are also plans in place to install tinted security glass along the front of the building.
In addition, he said police informed the group that should a response be needed, officers could be at the new location within minutes. One board member pointed out he was told there are routine “speed traps” set up across the street from the proposed location, which means officers could respond within seconds if necessary.
“It’s a perfect location for the program,” Walters told the Planning Board.
To bring the new center to fruition, the Salvation Army is seeking a local law amendment so that the B-2 (Highway-Business) District will allow for the support center. For its part, the Planning Board on Wednesday unanimously approved the zoning change referral. A public hearing on the relocation will now be discussed today during a public hearing before the Ellery Planning Board.
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