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Cattaraugus County Planning Board to review Farmersville wind law

LITTLE VALLEY – Cattaraugus County Planning Board members will review the proposed Farmersville local law on wind energy facilities tonight, as the Farmersville Town Board is poised to approve a 23-page update of its 2007 local law after the county planners’ review.

The 2018 local law would help pave the way for the 120-turbine Alle-Catt Wind Farm by Invenergy, a Chicago-based energy company that hopes to build 23 600-foot wind turbines in Farmersville, and another 34 in Freedom in Cattaraugus County.

Alle-Catt plans 10 additional turbines in Rushford and 29 in Centerville in Allegany County and nine in Arcade in Wyoming County.

Attorneys for Farmersville United, a group of more than 200 residents opposed to the wind turbines, plan to attend the planning board meeting.

One of the attorneys, Ginger Schroder, a Farmersville resident, said she will ask the board not to approve the Farmersville local law because not enough information was provided by the town for an environmental review.

“We believe it is missing important required components,” Schroder said of the environmental assessment form the town sent to county planning board staff for review. Most of the 13 pages were not completed.

Schroder said the planning board can either approve the law with no comments, send it back to the Farmersville Town Board with comments or reject it outright.

If the county planning board does anything less than full approval, the local law needs town board approval by a supermajority – four of the five board members, Schroeder said.

The Freedom Town Board held a public hearing and voted on a local wind turbine law favored by Invenergy back in July. The vote was invalid because the town board failed to submit a full environmental review, Schroder said.

Paul Bishop, the county’s senior planner, said Freedom never submitted a State Environmental Quality Review Act document for the wind law. The law was sent back to the town board with an explanation and the county planning board expects Freedom to submit a completed environmental form next month, he said.

“Both towns are feverishly attempting to pass the local laws,” Schroder said.

Freedom’s first vote was invalid because the board failed to make a full referral, she said.

“Farmersville is proceeding down the same path,” Schroder said. The law “is very similar to Freedom’s, which did not do an adequate referral. They did not provide (the county) enough information for review.”

Community groups informed the Farmersville Town Board they considered the referral to the county planning board incomplete and that they would oppose it at tonight’s meeting in Little Valley, Schroder told the Times Herald.

Both town boards are “pandering to the developer” for host community fees and payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) agreements, Schroder charged.

Schroder recently received copies of email communications between town officials and Invenergy under a Freedom of Information Law (F.O.I.L.) request. “They fought me on giving them to me,” she added.

“There’s a lot of foul play going on here,” Schroder alleges. “Something is not quite right. They are pandering to the requests of the developer for specific things in the local law, not looking out for the health, safety and welfare” of residents.

Schroder suggested town board members had met with Invenergy officials in groups of two to avoid violating the state’s Open Meetings Law. Under the law, if a majority of a board meets, the meeting must be properly publicized and open to the public.