FARMERSVILLE – Three members of the Farmersville Town Board have approved a resolution asking the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency to approve a payment in lieu of taxes agreement for the Alle-Catt Wind Farm.
Invenergy, a Chicago-based company, first proposed the 340-megawatt project – with 117 turbines over 30,000 acres in six towns and three counties – in 2017.
The cost of the project has been pegged at $454 million. Alle-Catt has proposed P.I.L.O.T.s totaling $3.2 million a year and $2.7 million in annual payments to leaseholders.
In Cattaraugus County, turbines and infrastructure for the project would be in Farmersville, Freedom and Machias. The Allegany towns involved are Centerville and Rushford. The town of Arcade in Wyoming County is also included.
Farmersville Trustee Pamela Tilton sponsored the resolution asking the Cattaraugus County IDA to grant a P.I.L.O.T. agreement.
Trustees Richard Westfall and Dale Scurr joined Tilton in support of the resolution, while Deputy Supervisor Mark Heberling abstained. Supervisor Francis Lounsbury is ill and did not attend the meeting.
Tilton did not return calls seeking comment on Thursday.
The IDA has not received an application for a P.I.L.O.T. for the project, according to IDA Executive Director Corey Wiktor.
The IDA board’s position has been that it will not consider granting tax breaks to a project that residents do not support. The board has also noted the project is not in keeping with the county’s comprehensive plan that emphasizes tourism and the rural nature of the county.
The Cattaraugus County Legislature was unanimous in its opposition to the IDA offering Alle-Catt any tax breaks in a resolution approved in 2018.
On April 13, at a meeting chaired by Tilton, the three attending board members voted to pursue an option to facilitate a host community agreement in regard to the Alle-Catt project. That was the resolution presented at Wednesday’s meeting.
“I abstained,” Heberling explained on Thursday. “They are putting the cart before the horse.” The council members seek to tie the host community agreement to a P.I.L.O.T., he said. “Invenergy can’t build without a P.I.L.O.T.”
Heberling pointed out that Westfall is a leaseholder with Invenergy.
“It seems like an ethical problem, but there is no teeth in enforcing it,” he said of any measure that might stand in the way of Westfall voting on a project in which he might personally benefit. “He signed a resolution to try to influence the IDA.”
The membership of the town board have gone from first favoring the Alle-Catt project and its 60-foot turbines, to adding new restrictions and fighting the developer, and now back to favoring the project by a 3-2 margin.
“I don’t think it means a whole lot,” Heberling said of the resolution. “I don’t think the county legislature is going to budge on this stuff.”
Heberling said, in his view, the resolution was “fundamentally flawed because it assumes the Alle-Catt project “is moving forward.” The resolution “implies that the project is inevitable and Farmersville needs to jump on the bandwagon before it’s too late.”
It is premature because Alle-Catt’s certification by the New York State Public Service Commission requires Invenergy to meet more than 100 separate conditions.
Heberling said that unlike other New York wind farms Alle-Catt “has not even begun the compliance process.”
The resolution, he said, was based on circular logic “because it argues the loss of IDA financing may scuttle the project so the board needs to pressure the IDA to reconsider.”
Heberling’s wife, Ginger Schroder, is a member of both the county legislature and the IDA.
Heberling added that Invenergy’s Article VII certification for a transmission line from the project to Arcade “is at best half-way through that process. The company can’t possibly move forward until its application (for the transmission line) is approved.”
He said Tilton voted in 2019 to enter into a host community agreement with Alle-Catt that depends on a P.I.L.O.T.
That was a year after county lawmakers voted to direct the IDA “not to consider a P.I.L.O.T. for large wind projects like Alle-Catt,” Heberling said.
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