FARMERSVILLE – Members of the Farmersville Town Board reviewed a revised wind law during a special meeting Thursday attended mostly by Alle-Catt Wind Farm opponents.
The revised law was distributed to board members at the July 15 board meeting by Town Attorney David DiMatteo. The roughly 50 residents who could not find room inside the Town Hall stood outside by open doors to listen.
DiMatteo said the special board was designed to allow the town board to review the proposed law and no comment from the public would be permitted at the meeting. DiMatteo took more than an hour to read the proposed revised law. During that time, Councilman Richard Zink asked a few questions.
Zink said provisions should be made to protect the Amish community during construction and that sound levels should be done continuously during the first year of operation. He also asked if the time to repair a turbine could be shortened from 120 days or longer.
The four board members agreed to hold another special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday to hear from engineer David Britton of GHD Engineering, the company hired by the other four towns impacted by the Alle-Catt Wind Farm.
The major changes from the proposed 2018 law – which the Cattaraugus County Planning Board refused to approve – are the setbacks. The maximum height remains 600 feet, but the setback to property line was reduced from 1.5 to 1.3 times tip height, and the setback from a residence was reduced from 1,800 feet to 1,500 feet.
Because the law was disallowed by the county, the Farmersville wind law will require a super-majority of 4 votes.
Board member Richard Westfall did not attend the meeting. He has a wind lease with Invenergy, the developer of the proposed 340 megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm that spans five towns in three counties. Up to 117 turbines are planned.
In a two-page document hand-delivered to board members at the beginning of the special meeting, Farmersville United President Mark Heberling wrote:
“We renew our request for 3,000-foot setbacks of turbines and facility components to property lines, 50dBA of noise at all times at property lines, a property value guarantee, shadow flicker limits of 30 hours or less and turbines of 450 feet or less at top height.”
In addition, Herberling asked “all board members who have a lease with Invenergy or whose family member has an Invenergy lease (as defined in the Farmersville Code of Ethics) recuse themselves from any vote on a wind law.”
In addition to Westfall, Heberling pointed out Supervisor Robert Karcher, whose in-laws have a wind lease in the town, and Zink, whose parents have a wind lease in Freedom.
DiMatteo said the town board has to consider Article 10, which governs the siting of wind and solar projects in New York state. The board is just reviewing the proposed revisions now, he said.
Why not include the lower height limit of 450 feet included in the town’s 2009 law, which remains in effect?
DiMatteo said turbines for the 450-foot structures are no longer available. If the town had a height limit for a turbine that no longer existed, that could be the route to an exemption by the state Siting Board, he explained.
Karcher said after the meeting he was “not pushing anything.” The more restrictive setbacks in the 2018 law caused the town to lose a couple of windmills.
“My biggest thing is getting a host community agreement,” the supervisor said.
Without a local wind law there can be no host community agreement.
Near the end of the meeting, Farmersville resident and attorney Ginger Schroder tried to bring some things to the board’s attention, but was reminded by DiMatteo that the board had asked that those attending the meeting refrain from speaking. Schroder is representing opponents of the wind farm as it is currently presented.
A constable approached Schroder when she tried to continue to speak, including asking Town Clerk Bridget Holmes to include the fact Farmersville United had presented documents to board members including numerous articles on concerns over wind power on a computer thumb drive.
Karcher said he doesn’t believe the town board will vote on a wind law before the board’s regular meeting Aug. 19.
Schroder said afterward the town board “are trying to pass a worse law than last year.” She expressed specific concern that there was no mention of limiting sun flicker from the turbines.
“We value the quality of life of residents of Farmersville,” Schroder said. “Instead, they are worried about how many turbines they can cram into this little town.”