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Towns struggle to set rules

As more private wind farm developers intensify efforts to find suitable sites for their projects, more communities are faced with the dilemma of what to do about them.

As more private wind farm developers intensify efforts to find suitable sites for their projects, more communities are faced with the dilemma of what to do about them.


At least 18 towns in the 10-county Rochester region- Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties- have been approached by such companies in recent years. And many communities, some that haven't even been contacted by developers, have imposed moratoriums to block wind farm proposals until they can get regulations on the books.
The only operating wind farm in the region is in Wethersfield, Wyoming County. It has 10 wind turbines, which are sometimes called windmills.

Other towns in that county, such as Sheldon and Perry, are in various stages of considering wind farm projects.

In Bristol and South Bristol, Ontario County, wind farm companies apparently abandoned their proposals after some exploratory efforts.

And in Yates County, Italy is in its third straight moratorium on such projects as town officials try to develop a zoning ordinance to regulate them. The law would restrict, for example, turbines' height, their spacing and their... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

As more private wind farm developers intensify efforts to find suitable sites for their projects, more communities are faced with the dilemma of what to do about them.


At least 18 towns in the 10-county Rochester region - Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties - have been approached by such companies in recent years. And many communities , some that haven't even been contacted by developers , have imposed moratoriums to block wind farm proposals until they can get regulations on the books.
The only operating wind farm in the region is in Wethersfield, Wyoming County. It has 10 wind turbines, which are sometimes called windmills.

Other towns in that county, such as Sheldon and Perry, are in various stages of considering wind farm projects.

In Bristol and South Bristol, Ontario County, wind farm companies apparently abandoned their proposals after some exploratory efforts.

And in Yates County, Italy is in its third straight moratorium on such projects as town officials try to develop a zoning ordinance to regulate them. The law would restrict, for example, turbines' height, their spacing and their set-back from property lines, explained Supervisor Margaret Dunn.

The town hopes to have the ordinance completed by year's end, she said. After public hearings, the law could be in place by April.

The town has heard plenty on both sides of the issue. At a Town Board meeting Nov. 8, Tom Golisano, Paychex Inc. founder and a staunch opponent, spoke and a wind farm company representative gave a presentation.

There have been numerous rumors of lawsuits against the town. "We have been threatened with a lawsuit almost from the beginning" of the moratoriums, Dunn said. "We're being threatened on both sides (companies and residents)." The latest threat came from a wind farm company, she said. "We're hoping it's just a scare tactic."

Meanwhile, the Town Board in Springwater, Livingston County, will discuss a proposed wind ordinance at a public hearing Dec. 12.

Springwater, where a wind farm proposal has triggered heated debate, didn't impose a moratorium. And the company that made formal public presentations on a proposal earlier this year has not pressured the town to act, said Supervisor Mark E. Walker, adding that he hasn't been in contact with the company "for several months."

Sheldon, Wyoming County, has just started the state-mandated environmental review process for a 79-turbine wind farm, said Supervisor John Knab. The town declared itself the lead agency for the review, which involves getting input from state and local agencies as well as residents. That process could take six to eight months to complete.

Meanwhile, the wind farm company has erected six test towers to measure wind currents and speed, he said.

The town didn't impose a moratorium because it has had an ordinance regulating windmills since 2003. But it did adopt a special-use permit law for test towers in 2001 after developers approached the town, Knab said.

Besides buying or leasing property from landowners for their projects, developers often offer financial incentives to local governments, including their school districts, such as payments in lieu of taxes. Statewide, most of the developers have ties to international companies.

In Prattsburgh, Steuben County, one company is offering over the 20-year life of the project an estimated $6 million to landowners, $7 million to local governments, $1.5 million from jobs and local purchases and $500,000 for a home heating program.

Despite such efforts, companies sometimes run into roadblocks. South Bristol permits only wind turbines or windmills for private use or for individual businesses, said Dan Marshall, supervisor of the Ontario County town.

The ordinance prohibits "any windmill built with the intention of selling (wind-generated electricity) to the grid," Marshall said. "We just say, 'No, you can't do that.'"

South Bristol officials actually revised the existing town ordinance to address windmills about two years ago, after a company came in proposing a 17-turbine wind farm on South Hill. The company set up test towers but met "immediate resistance" from the community, Marshall said. The company also had trouble finding landowners to sell or lease their property, he said.

The company eventually left the area, Marshall said. "They weren't getting anywhere."

"It really came down to aesthetics and what you were going to have to look at," Marshall said of the town's opposition. "We were scarring the environment to protect the environment. If you destroy the beautiful vista of Bristol Valley, are you paying too high a price?"
Includes reporting by staff writer Misty Edgecomb.
In the towns
Here is what's happening in some of the towns in the region:

# Livingston County: Springwater Town Board to hold public hearing on proposed wind farm ordinance Dec. 12.

# Genesee County: Ten of the 13 towns have declared moratoriums.

# Ontario County: Developers left Bristol and South Bristol after unsuccessful efforts.

# Wyoming County: Perry Town Board has not acted yet on new ordinance since public hearing Nov. 14. Developer hasn't talked to town for about a year.

# Wayne County: In Lyons, a developer spoke Oct. 3 at a public meeting of the town's Chamber of Commerce.

Source: http://www.democratandchron...

DEC 4 2005
http://www.windaction.org/posts/594-towns-struggle-to-set-rules
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