FARMERSVILLE – The Farmersville Town Board will conduct a public hearing on a proposed new wind turbine law at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Farmersville Fire Hall.
It’s unclear whether the board could vote on the proposed local law immediately following the public hearing.
The Cattaraugus County Planning Board returned the town’s local law without review at its Aug. 30 meeting because the environmental assessment form by the town was incomplete. The law needs to be reviewed and approved by the county planning board prior to passage.
Invenergy, a Chicago-based alternate energy developer, has proposed the Alle-Catt Wind Farm, a 120-turbine project in five towns in Cattaraugus, Allegany and Wyoming counties.
The county planning board approved a similar local law on wind turbines by the Freedom Town Board in July. The county board later rescinded its approval after it was pointed out the environmental assessment form was incomplete.
Planning board members asked the Freedom Town Board to resubmit their proposed wind turbine law because of the oversight.
Freedom Supervisor Randy Lester said last month the town board has not rescinded its 3-2 vote for the wind turbine law on July 18. Nor has it resubmitted the full environmental assessment form to the county planning board.
As in Freedom, the proposed revised wind turbine local law in Farmersville has deeply divided the community. Both towns have significant organized opposition and have retained attorneys to represent their interests.
One attorney, Ginger Schroder, told the Times Herald Saturday that the Farmersville Town Board appears ready to adopt the new wind turbine law after the public hearing and without waiting for a review by the county planning board.
“Is it possible to have a public hearing before going through the county planning board process?” Schroder asked.
If the planning board can reject it, or approve it with conditions, it seems “inappropriate” to hold a public hearing on a law before the county review, she added.
“They are not passing a wind law to protect the public, they are passing it at the request of this specific wind developer at their insistence,” Schroder said.
The town will receive $360,000 a year in host fees and payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) payments from the wind farm developer.
“That won’t even cover their legal fees,” Schroder said.
Farmersville Supervisor Robert Karcher did not reply to voicemails Friday and Saturday seeking comment.
Schroder said two of the five Farmersville Town Board members are “conflicted,” yet continue to play significant roles in the development of the wind law.
Board member Richard Westfall has signed leases for one or more wind turbines with Invenergy, and board member Richard Zink has relatives in Allegany County with leases for one or more turbines from Alle-Catt on their property.
Karcher, the supervisor, has said Westfall will not vote on the local law, but has made no such pronouncement for Zink.
Schroder said the 600-foot turbines Invenergy is insisting upon are offshore turbines that have not been tested on land.
“We’re Guinea pigs here,” she said. “How are they going to protect people’s ability to sleep at night?”
Freedom’s previous wind law and Farmersville’s current law limit the height of turbines to 450 feet. Schroder is afraid Alle-Catt could seek an exemption to even 600-foot turbines measured from the ground to the tip of the blade.
Schroder said residents and members of Farmersville United, which is opposed to the turbines, are gearing up for the public hearing.
Alle-Catt is asking leaseholders to come to the hearing and speak as well, Schroder indicated.
Town officials complain that supporters rarely get up and speak at public meetings so the only ones that are heard are those opposed to the wind farm.
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