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Villenova Town Board tables windmill vote

VILLENOVA – Following the county planning board’s decision to table its recommendation to the Hanover and Villenova town boards regarding the proposed amendments to the Ball Hill Wind Project, the Villenova Town Board passed a resolution granting the county an extension until July 30.

Although Villenova’s contentious public hearing on June 26 revealed a rather divided community, Town Supervisor Richard Ardillo said that Wednesday night’s town board meeting was very calm and respectful. “I would say there were about 20 to 30 members of the public there, but everyone was well-behaved,” he said. “It was a calm meeting – no outbursts or anything.”

Following the board’s regular business, Ardillo announced to the board that the county’s request for an extension. “We did grant them that and extended it until July 30. We’ll be holding a special meeting of the town board on August 1 and we’re going to take up the issue then, depending on how the county responds.”

Because work-related matters prevented Ardillo from attending the planning board meeting, he sent a letter to the county instead, “asking that the county allow the town to move forward with its decision. We very much believe in home rule,” said Ardillo. “I hope the county does their due diligence and we look forward to hearing from them.”

According to Mark Lyons, project manager for RES, the company behind the Ball Hill Wind Project, if the county does not approve the amendments, the project will still move forward without the higher turbines. Lyons, who attended both the county meeting and the Villenova meeting said of the county, “Understandably, they have more questions and we’re happy to explain them. The more factual information people have about the proposal, the better off we’ll be.”

Lyons noted that the county planning board identified three areas that they had additional questions regarding. The first regarded the overall cumulative impact of the amendments compared to the final environmental impact statement issued when the project was first permitted in 2016.

The second area that the board wanted to verify was that certain impacts would actually be reduced, including reduced noise impacts due to higher turbines and the elimination of one substation, 10 fewer acres of ground clearance due to the conversion of overhead lines to underground lines, and reduced wetland impact by three acres.

The third area involved any potential legal issues regarding the adoption of advanced technologies under the proposed amendments.

“We’re happy to provide the board with these answers and they’ll be made available to the public, too, on www.ballhillwind.com,” said Lyons.

Ardillo was pleasantly surprised that the request for an extension was so well-received by the members of the public. “Even though we’re not required to, we always open it up to public comments at the end of the meeting, and no one had anything further to say.”

Even during the workshop prior to the board meeting, Ardillo said that the public was cooperative.

“We’ve had a lot of comments from the public on both sides of the issue. At our workshop prior to the meeting, we set aside time to review the letters and cards we’ve received. We didn’t put an official count to it, but I would say without exaggerating that we have received at least 30 to 35 letters of support and probably a little less than that in opposition. The people who do support it aren’t always as vocal in public. Mainly the farming community are supporters. I haven’t run into too many of them who are opposed to it.

Lyons, too, noted that there is a segment of “silent supporters” who may be hesitant to vocalize their views.

“It’s important to note that there are a lot of people who support this who are hard working farmers out cutting hay right now. They might not be available or have the courage to speak out at a public meeting, but I believe their interests are very important. We’re here to benefit them as well as the communities the windparks are in.”