FARMERSVILLE – The Farmersville Town Board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday night to consider a proposed new wind law introduced on July 17.
A legal notice in the Arcade Herald on Thursday incensed Alle-Catt Wind Farm opponents and others concerned over the 600-foot tall industrial turbines – particularly in light of the results of the June primary.
Peter Lounsbury, who defeated Supervisor Robert Karcher in the June 25 Republican primary, is also on the Conservative and Independence party lines and is unopposed in the November election. He a former Farmersville United member and remains opposed to the turbines as presented.
Lounsbury does not believe the town board will be pro-wind next year.
“The protections are worse than the 2018 law that the Cattaraugus County Planning Board denied,” Lounsbury told the Olean Times Herald on Friday. “I have a feeling Invenergy is pushing this. They can fit in more turbines if the setbacks are less.”
Invenergy stand ready to invest $570 million in the project which includes $3.2 million a year in payments in lieu of taxes and $2.7 million in payments to property owners. The wind farm will generate 340 megawatts with 117 turbines.
The draft 2018 law called for 1.5 times the tip height (600 feet) to the nearest property line and nearest public road plus 1,800 feet from the nearest residence. The most recent draft calls for 1.3 times the tip height to the nearest property line and roadway and 1,500 feet from the nearest residence. The noise level remained the same, 50 dBA.
Lounsbury said the Farmersville Town Board “is disregarding what people are telling them.” At the public hearings the town board has conducted plus the recent siting board hearings, residents have spoken clearly, he said. They don’t want the turbines if residents concerns are not addressed, he said.
Even the survey conducted by the town last year found only 37% of respondents favored the project, Lounsbury pointed out.
Lounsbury said Invenergy can’t fit the number of turbines they would like into Farmersville with greater setbacks. “They’ve already moved a couple of turbines from Farmersville into Rushford and Freedom, he added.”
Farmersville United President Mark Heberling agreed with Lounsbury that the change in the setbacks was based on increasing the number of turbines. There is no other explanation, he said.
“I think they are desperate,” Heberling said. “They are scared this project is failing. It’s a sign of desperation.” The primary results where pro-wind candidates were defeated spoke volumes, he said. “They know they are not going to win.”
Heberling said Karcher should join Councilman Richard Westfall in recusing himself from voting on this latest proposed wind law.
Westfall has a turbine lease with Invenergy and had agreed to recuse himself from voting. He took part however in last year’s deliberations on the failed wind law including suggesting the noise level be increased from 42 dBA to 50 dBA.
The Alle-Catt website has previously cited Karcher with a potential conflict because his in-laws have a wind lease and Board member Richard Zink whose parents have a wind lease in another town.
At the July 17 town board meeting, Town Attorney David DiMatteo suggested Westfall might be able to vote on a wind law after all. He did not recommend it.
“Farmersville is not the right fit for this project,” Heberling said.
Ginger Schroder, a Farmersville resident and attorney representing Farmersville United, obtained information on the relationship between setbacks from property lines and residences and the number of turbines through a Freedom of Information Law request to the town.
The information from the FOIL showed:
• An 1,800-foot setback from the nearest residence and 1.5 times tip height from a property line would mean 8-9 turbines in Farmersville.
• A 1,500-foot setback and 1.3 times tip height would double the number of turbines in the town to 16-18.
• A 1,500-foot setback with 1.2 times tip height would mean 18-20 turbines.
• A 1,200-foot setback and 1.1 tip height would yield 21 turbines.
The 1,200-foot setback from the nearest off-site residence and 1.1 times tip height setback from property lines and roads is contained in the local laws in Freedom, Centerville and Rushford, which are included in the Alle-Catt Wind Farm.
Schroder said she thought something was strange when the local law was introduced on July 17. She recalled Karcher, the supervisor, had stated the month before that there would be no vote on a wind law this year.
Then on Thursday she heard about the notice of the special meeting to consider the local law – less than two weeks later. It also comes after the June 25 primary where Karcher was defeated in the Republican primary by Lounsbury.
“We’ve shown them over and over this is not what the community wants,” Schroder said. The county Legislature has asked the Industrial Development Agency not to grant tax breaks to Alle-Catt, the county planning board has rejected it, residents have rejected it at public hearings and in town’s own survey.
Cattaraugus County disallowed the 2018 Farmersville wind law because it increased the height from 450 foot to 600 feet and because it would impact on the county’s rural character. It would take a super-majority – 4 out of 5 votes by town board members – to overcome the Planning Board’s objections.
Before the resignation earlier this year of former board member Andrew Warner, who was not in favor of the wind law, and with Westfall unable to vote, the board was unable to take up another law. With Warner’s resignation, the board appointed George Duncan, who said he has an open mind when it comes to the wind turbines.
Karcher did not return calls seeking comment.
Zink, who wind turbine opponents have described as both anti-wind and pro-wind, said while the setbacks in the proposed 2019 wind law are less than in the 2018 draft law, they still take safety, ice throw and sound into consideration.
The setbacks are greater than the ones included in the 2009 wind law, which remains in effect, Zink noted. He said the newest setbacks weren’t significant.
Based on the county Planning Board’s rejection of the 2018 wind law, the 2019 wind law may not go that route. That would require a super-majority vote, Zink said. That is four votes and Westfall probably would not take part in the vote.
“I think we are going in a direction we feel comfortable,” Zink said of the board. “I think that come November, people can vote the way they want to vote,” Zink added.
Invenergy “is pushing this,” Schroder said. “They know the community is against it.”
“I guess we’re just going to have to sue for continuing to act against the wishes of the community and conflict of interest,” Schroder said.