FARMERSVILLE – The Farmersville Town Board passed a Wind Energy Facilities Law Monday night after nearly an hour of comments during a “virtual public hearing.”
About 25 residents, town taxpayers or other interested individuals participated in the public hearing via telephone because of coronavirus concerns. Town board members also voted via telephone.
The local law was similar to the one approved on a similar 3-2 vote in January, doubling the setbacks of turbines to 3,000 feet, decreasing the height of turbines to 450 feet from 600 feet and limiting noise from wind energy projects like the proposed 340 megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm.
The Cattaraugus County Planning Board had suggested a few modifications of the local law when it reviewed it in January.
The new 2020 local law incorporates the suggestions of the Planning Board, which reviewed the modifications and gave it a thumbs up in March.
The changes include:
• A clarification of what the law means by roads. The setback includes only public roads.
• The board clarified the definition of wells to include both water wells and gas wells.
• Setbacks from Amish homes, which are also used by the community as churches, will be treated like churches, but not taxed like churches.
• The comments during the telephone public hearing ranged from callers thanking the town board members for passing a more protective local law than the one approved in 2019 by a pro-wind board to questions of why the town board was wasting money on a new law under an old state law.
“I support the new wind law and thank the town board for looking out for residents,” one caller, Dorothy Lothridge, said.
Former Supervisor Robert Karcher, who led the board last year when the previous pro-wind local law was approved, asked during the public hearing why the board was wasting money passing a new wind law.
Karcher said the public hearing on the local law should have been put off during the current COVID-19 crises and accused the board majority of “trying to bankrupt the town.”
Aaron Saykin of Hodson Russ, a law firm representing Invenergy, the parent company of Alle-Catt Wind Farm, said the public hearing was not properly advertised and suggested that Deputy Supervisor Mark Heberling had a conflict of interest in that his wife, Ginger Schroder, an attorney, was representing opponents to the wind farm.
The 3-2 vote on the local law was not unexpected. It is the same vote as on the similar local law passed in January.
Voting to approve the wind law were Supervisor Peter Lounsbury, Donna Vickman and Heberline. Those opposed were Pam Tilton and Richard Westfall.