LaFargeville – a six-month moratorium on activity relating to furthering industrial wind, including erecting test towers, was adopted by the Orleans Town Board during its Apr. 14 meeting.
Prior to the vote, a hearing took place to give members of the public an opportunity to air their views.
Among the speakers in favor of the moratorium was Patty Miller, of LaFargeville, who said the town would be wise to slow down the wind application process to allow more time for town officials to learn about new technology that has developed since the 2011 local wind law was written. "I have heard from contacts in Albany that this is only the tip of the iceberg," she said. "Turbines could run all along Route 12 and 12 E, but only a few people will benefit."
Gunther Schaller shared his view that the wind company is not being open. He used an example that leases filed with Jefferson County no longer disclose the names of the resident leaseholders, at a time when the attorney general is requiring more open information to the public. Mr. Schaller is concerned that a local landowner’s initial five-year lease can be renewed several times. "This is sometimes a 60-year commitment locking up those properties, and with severe restrictions on farming," he said in part.
No member of the public spoke against having a moratorium.
Iberdrola Renewables Director of Renewables Development Jeff Reinkemeyer spoke against the moratorium, however, and said it is too broad, since it also includes the wind test tower.
"This application was submitted under the current wind law, is fully compliant with the standards set forth in the town zoning code, and the zoning code requires the town to grant a permit in this circumstance, once the process has been completed," he said.
Mr. Reinkemeyer said the call for a moratorium may have been based upon mis-information, namely that the wind turbines will be more than 600 feet high. He corrected the record by saying the wind turbines will be beneath 500 feet high.
Nonetheless, each councilperson stated a reason for voting to enact a moratorium, and the justification included the fact that towers are higher in general and technology has advanced since the 2011 wind law was adopted.
"Five years is a long time. I would like to review the wind law and make sure we’re all protected," Supervisor Kevin Rarick said.
Councilwoman Gwen Kirby pointed out that a lot of new homes have been built in the town and said she would like to know if the placement of the turbines would affect the homes. "I'm not against wind power, but I would like the electricity to stay here, and it doesn't," she said.
Councilwoman Mary Ford-Waterman said she couldn't see any reason not to take the time to look at all the facts and research the impacts.
The same wind developer had proposed project in Orleans six years ago, Councilman Peter Wilson reminded the board. "I don't think another six months will make a difference," he said.
The vote was unanimous to impose a six-month hold on applications while the board reconvenes its wind committee to closely review the law. Councilman Thomas Johnston was absent from the meeting.
Zoning officer Lee Shimel noted that an application for a 196 foot high meteorological test tower has been submitted by Iberdrola, but a permit has not been granted.
According to Supervisor Rarick, the permit will not be granted.