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Cattaraugus County asks Farmersville to conduct full environmental study

LITTLE VALLEY – The Cattaraugus County Planning Board voted Thursday to ask the Farmersville Town Board to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on its proposed new local law on wind power.

Senior planner Paul Bishop said the change from a height limit of 450 feet in Farmersville’s 2007 and 2009 local wind laws to 600-foot industrial wind turbines was significant and should merit an EIS.

“A 33 percent increase in the height we feel could be a significant negative impact on neighboring municipalities,” Bishop said.

The senior planner also said the turbines did not seem to be in keeping with the county’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan, which emphasized the rural character of the county and natural beauty of the country life.

Bishop said the town board did not have to follow the planning board’s suggestion to conduct a full EIS if the local law is approved by a super majority of the board. That means four of the five board members and supervisor would have to vote for the new local law.

Two members of the Farmersville Town Board are on a list on the Alle-Catt website of municipal officers with a financial interest or related to someone with a financial interest in the project. They are Richard Westfall and Richard Zink.

“Thanks for protecting us,” said Ginger Schroder, a Farmersville resident and attorney representing town residents opposed to the law as written after the planning board’s vote.

Outside the meeting room, Schroder said the planning board’s action was “a signal to the (Farmersville) town board. They need to take a hard look at the local law and make changes in the interests of residents, not Invenergy.”

Schroder added, “I hope they will look at protection for residents we’ve been asking for: A 3,000-foot setback from the property line, 40 dBA sound level and a 450-foot height.”

Invenergy spokesman Eric Miller said he would have no comment when asked about his reaction to the planning board’s decision as he left the meeting.

Invenergy, a Chicago-based alternative energy company is seeking to site 117 turbines in the five towns as part of the 340-megawatt project. The project would generate enough electricity to power 146,000 homes for a year.

Invenergy submitted its application for the wind farm to the New York Siting Board on Dec. 18.

The company has emphasized the economic benefits of the project including $2.7 million a year in payments to leaseholders, $1.9 million in PILOT payments to towns, schools and counties, $1.1 million in host community agreements and $200,000 for fire districts. The wind farm would require about a dozen employees.

Besides Farmersville, the town of Freedom is a host of the proposed wind farm in Cattaraugus County; Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County and the town of Arcade in Wyoming County.

Freedom is facing a lawsuit from Freedom United, a group opposed to the wind farm. The lawsuit, which will be heard Feb. 21 in State Supreme Court in Little Valley, contends that the Farmersville Town Board’s passage of its local law last year was improper.

The county planning board’s review of the Freedom Town Board’s proposed local law was rescinded by the planning board because it did not complete the EAF. The planning board suggested Freedom finish the EAF and resubmit it.

Thursday night was the third time planning board members had reviewed the proposed Farmersville local law.

The first time the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) was deemed incomplete was in August. When a completed EAF was submitted by the town last month, the planning board deemed it inconsistent and again returned it to the town board.