Farmersville Supervisor Francis “Pete” Lounsbury said the amendments clarify the local law in four areas recommended by the Cattaraugus County Planning Board when it approved the wind law last month.
Board members voted 3-2 Monday to approve the new wind law. Lounsbury, Mark Heberling and Donna Vickman voted for it, while Pam Tilton and Richard Westfall voted against it.
The town board voted 3-2 last month to void the town’s 2019 wind law, which officials said left the town’s 2007 wind law in effect. That law includes a 450-foot height requirement, while the developer of the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm, which would include turbines in Farmersville, wants to install 600-foot turbines.
The 2020 Farmersville Wind Energy Facilities Local Law includes greater setbacks from homes and property lines – 3,000 feet to a mile, a lower turbine height and more restrictive noise requirements.
According to the supervisor, it was modeled after a local law in Enfield, N.Y. that board members considered more protective.
At the recommendation of the county Planning Board, the amendments to the 2020 wind law include:
• Redefines “Conservation Areas” to add Native American burial grounds.
• A 2,000 foot setback of wind turbine generators from any public road – seasonal, regular or limited use as measured from the center point of the road.
• A 1-mile setback from the property line of churches, schools and cemeteries. The amendment adds: “The town recognizes that Amish families worship in their homes and barns and thus for the purposes of this law, Amish properties shall have the same setbacks as Churches.”
Schools will include “Amish schools and home schools.” Non-native American burial grounds were added to cemeteries.
• A 3,000-foot setback from public or private water wells was expanded to include oil and gas wells.
• Turbine setbacks “shall be sufficient such that shadow flicker (whether falling on a structure or land, excluding land owned solely by a property owner who has a wind lease on that land) shall be limited to eight hours per year and one hour per month.”
The proposed amendments were opposed by Tilton and Westfall.
A public hearing on the amendments to the wind law was scheduled for March 9 at 7 p.m.
Town Clerk Bridget Holmes asked to read several letters from residents expressing concerns. “I had questions on the wind law,” she explained.
“Your job is to take minutes,” responded Town Attorney Eric Firkel.
The clerk later read several unsigned letters during the public comment portion of the meeting.
One resident expressed concern that current or former members of Farmersville United could hold office. Lounsbury noted he resigned as vice president of Farmersville United before running for office and Heberling, a former Farmersville United president, resigned after winning the November election.
Another resident thought the new board was going to bankrupt the town in a legal fight with Invenergy.
“They don’t sound like a good company if they want to bankrupt the town,” Heberling replied.
Tilton said she was hoping the board could have a workshop to review the wind law like it did with the 2019 law.
Highway Superintendent Barry Tingue also spoke up, suggesting the new majority on the board was moving too fast. Tingue questioned having Firkel take over labor negotiations from an attorney from Hodgson Russ.
“Why take it out of the hands of an attorney and turn it over to someone who has not been involved?” he asked.
Tilton asked whether there was a conflict of interest in the hiring of Alicia Rood to conduct an environmental assessment on the wind law, since she worked for Ginger Schroder, a wind opponent and wife of town board member Mark Heberling.
Firkel explained that Rood is an independent contractor who has done work for Schroder in the past. “I’m paying her directly,” he said of Rood’s work. That work will be billed to the town as an expense. “There is no conflict of interest.”
Schroder said later, “It’s comical in light of the very real financial conflicts that were on the Farmersville Town Board and everyone turned a blind eye.”
Invenergy paid a $15,000 fine last year for not including 10 or more conflicts involving family members owning land under lease to Invenergy. The Chicago-based company has proposed 117 turbines as part of a 340-megawatt wind farm.
Tilton also questioned a new town of Farmersville website Heberling has built at no cost to the town to replace the existing website provided by Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board.
She asked if the new website was necessary when the town was paid up on the existing one.
Heberling said the town will have quicker access to the new website at www.townoffarmersville.org. The old website will be archived and links to it will be made available.
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