LITTLE VALLEY – The Farmersville Town Board’s new proposed wind law was sent back by the Cattaraugus County Planning Board as incomplete on Thursday.
Planning board members first heard presentations from opponents and a representative of Invenergy, the developer of the Alle-Catt Wind Farm, a 120-turbine project in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
After the presentations, senior planner Paul Bishop said the Farmersville Town Board’s referral to the county planning board lacked parts 2 and 3 of the Environmental Assessment Form.
“So we can’t consider this tonight,” declared Paul D. Mager, planning board vice chairman who ran the meeting in the absence of Chairman Charles W. Couture.
“It needs to be sent back for a full referral,” Bishop said.
Bishop announced earlier that the town of Freedom’s new wind law the planning board reviewed earlier would have to be rescinded, because the town had not provided a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review. He said the plan will have to be submitted with documentation proving it has been reviewed, Bishop said.
The board voted 2-0 with six abstentions for a resolution supporting the Cattaraugus County Legislature’s vote last week asking the county Industrial Development Agency (IDA) not to grant tax breaks for wind projects bigger than 5 megawatts.
Board members John Sayegh wanted the planning board to support county lawmakers request to the IDA. Mager also supported Sayegh’s motion. He said he is not a big supporter of P.I.L.O.T.s. the IDA can approve.
The Alle-Catt Wind Farm with 34 turbines in Freedom, 23 in Farmersville, 29 in Centerville, 10 in Rushford and nine in Arcade, would produce 380 megawatts, enough to power 140,000 homes.
Invenergy representative Eric Miller said wind projects “are not going to be built without tax breaks.” He urged the planning board to consider the $7 million the project will bring into the five towns in the three-county area.
Ginger Schroder, a Farmersville resident who is one of two attorneys representing residents opposed to the wind farm, pointed out the Farmersville submission was incomplete. “This town is anxious to pass a law.”
Schroder said the wind farm is “highly inconsistent” with Cattaraugus County’s Comprehensive Plan. That plan calls for retaining the county’s rural character, promoting tourism and a healthy and safe environment, she pointed out.
The 600-foot turbines, the highest structures in Upstate New York, will be visible for more than 10 miles, Schroder said. According to an Invenergy viewshed graphic, many people will be able to see between 91 and 111 of the turbines. She called the visual impact “stunning.”
Miller replied that the viewshed graphic was misleading as it did not account for any trees to shield wind turbines, and was conservative because it counted the tip of a blade as a view. He said past experience with wind farms has not shown a negative impact on tourism, agriculture or land values.
Stephanie Milks, president of Freedom United, said she was not opposed to renewable energy, but that property rights need to be respected and greater setbacks were required.
Miller added the state will do a thorough review of the plan.
“We want the project to be safe,” Miller said.
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