YATES — After its introduction and public hearing in April, Local Law No. 2 amending the Wind Energies Facilities Law of 2008 passed the Yates Town Board in a 3-2 vote.
After gathering feedback from the community as well as the County Planning Board, the town board made amendments to the Wind Energies Facilities Law. According to Supervisor James Simon, the town adjusted language in findings such as the impact on bats and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act compliance; adjusted language of definitions and added some including project property line, wind energy facilities, actual ambient background level, etc.; incorporated five citations to peer-reviewed studies that further explain their justification for the zoning standards; adjusted the noise levels and testing requirements for developers; refined the property value protections from two miles to one mile; and adjusted the health protections such that developers must show sufficient proof that the siting of industrial wind turbines meet all county and state health regulations and mitigate risk to human health.
Before the vote, each board member spoke on why they were voting the way they did.
Councilman Jim Whipple, who voted for the law, said, “It’s time to adopt this law. This law has taken a lot of town resources to develop. I personally believe Article 10 will make several sections of this invalid. It could throw out more than that, but it is time to adopt this.”
“I have made it known over the last several months there are several sections in this law that are beyond the zoning powers of this town. I firmly believe the more reasonable the law, the more likely the provisions in it will apply when it gets to the Siting Board,” said Councilman Wes Bradley who voted against the law. “Yes we spent a lot of time and money, but I cannot vote for something that deals with points that are beyond our zoning powers of the town. Until those sections are removed, I cannot support it.”
Councilman John Riggi, who voted yes, said “This law, again, has been a long in the making. Frankly, we’re basically running, trying to get this law done, so we can protect the constituency. Article 10 has not given us any guidance to what is reasonably burdensome and what is unreasonably burdensome. So, nobody knows. Nobody knows for sure. That being the case, I think we have to offer the constituency the best protections we possibly can.”
“The lead council on this is really not recommending a couple provisions, and I think he is dead right,” said Councilman Bradley Bentley, who voted against the law. “That’s why I’m encouraging (the board) to take it out, but because it stands, I probably will not vote for it.”
Simon, who voted for the law giving it the majority needed to pass, said, “The process was very humbling for me and my colleagues, I’m sure. The last few items that remain in contestation are such that because Article 10 and the Siting Board have not ruled on the reasonableness of the provisions of our law, as what will be voted upon, nor any law which a town is contesting developments for industrial wind, I think it’s reasonable to give as much possible protection as we can. In fact several of the clauses that were debated and discussed the most are now in force in several towns in this state.”
The passage of the law drew applause from the members of the public, who then urged Yates to join with Somerset to share legal fees.
“I commend the board for putting in a property protection plan. I find it interesting that wind companies say that property values go up in wind turbine projects, yet they complain you put a property projection plan,” said Cathy Orr, from Somerset. “I do think it would be a great idea to work together with the town of Somerset to allay some of the costs.”
“Having just received the final copy of the updated ordinance moments before the board’s vote, we are still in the process of performing a thorough review to understand and evaluate the intent of the new changes to see how it would impact the project,” said Taylor Quarles, from Lighthouse Winds when asked for a comment. “We are eager to continue working with the Yates Town Board through the ongoing stipulations process as we work towards the filing of a robust application.”