After Thursday’s disapproval of Farmersville’s proposed wind law by the Cattaraugus County Planning Board, what’s next?
“After the survey results and the County Planning Board recommendation, we need to have some serious conversations about our proposed wind law,” Deputy Supervisor A.J. Warner said in a telephone interview Saturday.
Supervisor Robert Karcher could not be reached for comment.
An Invenergy spokesman declined to comment Thursday night after the County Planning Board vote disapproving the Farmersville wind law review.
Warner, who has been hesitant about changes in the town’s 2009 wind law that limits the height of wind turbines to 450 feet, said he hasn’t heard anything about conducting a special meeting in wake of the planning board’s decision. The board’s next scheduled meeting is Jan. 18.
It will take a supermajority, or four members of the five-member town board in order to proceed with changes to the current wind law. Warner isn’t sure that’s possible.
One board member, Richard Westfall, who has signed a lease with Invenergy, developer of the proposed 340 megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm, will probably not take part in the vote. Other town officials are also seen as having potential conflicts, according to the Alle-Catt website.
A letter from the Franklinville Town Board to County Planning Board members highlighted those conflicts.
The letter signed by Franklinville Supervisor Lorrie Fisher and four board members also said the wind law did not follow the county’s Comprehensive Plan approved in 2016 which recognizes its rural nature and natural beauty. At 600 feet, the wind turbines would be visible in towns outside Farmersville.
Alle-Catt’s 117 turbines would generate electricity for 134,000 homes.
Farmersville would have 23 turbines under Invenergy’s proposal. It would receive $360,000 in payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) and host community fees a year. Neighboring Freedom is in line for 34 turbines and $450,000 in P.I.L.O.T. and host community fees. The Pioneer School District would get $330,000 in P.I.L.O.T. fees for 48 turbines, Franklinville $100,000 for 12 and Cuba-Rushford $150,000 for 21.
Total host fees, P.I.L.O.T.s and taxes is about $3.2 million a year, while landowners would get about $2.7 million a year. Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County and Arcade in Wyoming County would also get P.I.L.O.T.s and host community fees.
Over the 20-year life of the turbines, municipalities, counties and school districts would receive $78 million, while landowners would get $64 million.
One potential fly in the ointment is a request to the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) from the County Legislature not to grant tax breaks to large wind projects.
Without the P.I.L.O.T. designation for a large wind project like Alle-Catt, the developer would have to pay property taxes on the project, which most agree is not profitable. The Alle-Catt project is valued at more than $600 million.
The Town of Freedom passed a wind law similar to Freedom’s last year. The County Planning Board initially approved the new Freedom law. It then rescinded the approval and urged the town to rescind the local law.
Freedom United, a group opposed to changes in the Freedom wind law, has sued the town board in state Supreme Court over the vote on the new wind law. That lawsuit will be heard in Little Valley on Feb. 26.
Mark Heberling, president of Farmersville United, a group of residents concerned over proposed changes in the town wind law, was glad with the County Planning Board decision Thursday, but remains frustrated.
Farmersville United is asking for 3,000-foot setbacks from property lines and a 40 dBA sound level for the turbines. The Farmersville Town Board mirrors the Freedom wind law changes, but has a slightly larger setback, 1,800 feet and a 50 dBA noise level.
“The big thing is that the county rejected the law,” Heberling said. “It needs a full environmental impact statement.”
Heberling said he found it frustrating that Invenergy proclaims to be a green company, yet it proposes to cut forests, cross wetlands and streams with roads and buried power lines.
The company went out trying to find landowners willing to have a wind turbine on their property, then pieced together the wind farm footprint cross five towns in three counties.
“They didn’t use science,” Heberling said. “Some of these (turbines) are right on top of each other. They don’t think about our community. Some of these power plants are 500 feet from a property line.”
In one case, according to maps in Invenergy’s application to the News York State Siting Board, buried cable goes right through a state forest, Heberling said.
Invenergy filed its application with the state Siting Board on Dec. 18.
“The residents don’t want this,” Heberling said. He said the town’s survey showing 195 against, 139 for and 41 undecided is more evidence of how the town feels about Alle-Catt.
“Why do we want to be guinea pigs for 600-foot tall wind turbines?” Heberling asked.
“It doesn’t fit into the rural character of Cattaraugus County and Farmersville,” he said. “They are too industrial. I wish the town was more receptive to what we want.”
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