PARISHVILLE — Parishville’s town supervisor believes an information request submitted by a wind developer is an attempt to supersede the municipality’s newly adopted wind law.
The Town of Parishville recently received a Freedom of Information Request (FOIL) from Iberdola, the wind developer that plans to erect around 40 wind towers, about 500 feet high, in Parishville and Hopkinton.
The FOIL request, received by the town on July 11, seeks all minutes from meetings, any wind law discussions in emails from town board members (including from personal emails), and any and all records relating to any direct contacts between or meetings attended by any town representatives, officers, or employees or board members and members of the group Concerned Citizens for Rural Preservation ("CCRP") or Parishville-Hopkinton Alliance ("PHA") and/or their respective agents.
“The intent (of the FOIL request) is to fully understand on behalf of the many wind energy proponents in the community what transpired in the town board's developing and passing the new wind law and to ensure procedures were properly followed,” said Paul Copleman, spokesman for Avangrid.
“This request came in shortly after the town passed its newly revised local wind law and formally made Avangrid aware that we were not interested in any discussions regarding a PILOT for the proposed North Ridge Wind Project,” said Parishville Town Supervisor Rodney Votra.
Revenue for landowners and farmers could be $500,000 and around $750,000 for the community, according to wind developers Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Iberdola.
“New revenue streams can be created by payment in-lieu of tax (PILOT) agreements, through host community benefit agreements and sometimes by a combination of both,” Copleman said. “Energy projects use such agreements because they create revenue and budgeting certainty for the community and are the only way to legally create operating cost certainty for the project. That predictability, combined with the significant level of payment, are a win-win for any community.
Copleman was asked if a PILOT is not agreed upon, would the wind farm be cancelled. He said, “Generally, it’s in the best interest for both the local taxing jurisdictions and the wind farm to have some form of predictable revenue mechanism in place.”
Attempt to Supersede Local Law
Votra says he believes this is Avangrid’s attempt to supersede local law through Article 10.
“This is independent of the Article 10 process,” Copleman said, when asked if the FOIL was related to Article 10.
On Aug. 4, 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law Chapter 388 of the Laws of 2011 that enacted Article 10 of the Public Service Law. Article 10 gives state officials the final say over where a proposed wind tower can be erected.
Article 10 provides a review and approval process for major electric generating facilities in New York State by addressing state and local permitting requirements in a single process. It includes environmental justice and environmental and health requirements and ensures broad public involvement opportunities throughout the process.
Article 10 makes funds available to local municipalities through an Intervenor Fund so the community affected by the proposed plant can hire experts and lawyers and requires the creation of a Public Involvement Plan, summarizing project efforts to educate, inform, and involve the public in the permitting process.
The Parishville Town Board unanimously passed a local wind law at a meeting June 22, establishing wind turbine setbacks and sound output limits.
Votra has previously stated that the siting board in Albany will review the law to see if it is overly burdensome to wind tower companies or if anything is “out of line.”
The plans still calls for setbacks of wind towers to be five times the height of the wind tower from the property line of a non-participating landowner. If the towers are 500 feet high, as projected, setbacks would be 2,500 feet. That distance would apply to the foundation of the residence of a participating landowner.
The local law for sound decibels to be at 45 or below from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and 35 decibels from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. from a participating landowners residence.
The FOIL request is for copies and access to the following records: agendas and minutes of all town board meetings where local law matters were discussed or referenced, including, but not limited to executive sessions; documents evidencing the introduction of the local law by the town board; any transcripts of proceedings and public hearings by the town concerning the local law; official/final and all draft versions of the local law considered by the town board; any and all correspondence to or from the town board or its individual members, including e-mails sent or received from personal e-mail accounts.
The request also asks for documents evidencing the delivery of the final version of a local law to the desks of town board members, any environmental assessment forms and/or environmental impact statements prepared and/or considered by the town board in support of the local law, any reports, studies and/or plans submitted to the town board and/or relied on by the town board in enacting provisions of the local law and any and all correspondence, recommendations or reports received from the Town of Parishville Planning Board.
The request also seeks documents evidencing the referral of the local law to the St. Lawrence County Planning Office and/or St. Lawrence County Planning Board, including the date of the referral, all correspondence, reports or recommendations received from the St. Lawrence County Planning Office and/or St. Lawrence County Planning Board, any report of final action prepared by the town board and submitted to the St. Lawrence County Planning Office and/or St. Lawrence County Planning Board and documents evidencing the filing of the local law with the New York State Department of State.
Further, the request asks for all records, relating to the adoption of any Wind Overlay Zone in the Town of Parishville, including but not limited to: Any local laws amending the Town of Parishville Zoning Map to create a Wind Overlay Zone, agendas and minutes of all town board meetings whereby the creation of a Wind Overlay Zone and/or matters involving the creation of a Wind Overlay Zone were discussed or referenced, including, but not limited to executive sessions, documents evidencing the introduction of a local law to create a Wind Overlay Zone, any transcripts of proceedings and public hearings by the town concerning the creation of any Wind Overlay Zone, official/final and all draft versions of any local laws creating a Wind Overlay Zone, any and all correspondence to or from the town board or its individual members, including e-mails sent or received from personal e-mail accounts and any and all records relating to reviewed and/or relied on by town board member Kari Tremper to support the assertion made at the public hearing held by the town board on June 14, 2017 that work being done by Avangrid is being paid for the governor.