LITTLE VALLEY — The Cattaraugus County Planning Board has green-lighted the proposed 2020 Freedom Wind Energy Facility Law.
The new majority on the Freedom Town Board proposed the new wind law in January. If approved at the town board’s March 16 meeting, it would replace a 2007 wind law.
On Thursday, the planning board unanimously approved the proposed 2020 wind law without condition.
In 2018, the planning board first approved a new town wind law, then rescinded that approval because the application had not been completed.
A state Supreme Court judge struck down the 2018 wind law last October and ruled that the 2007 law remained in effect. Judge Terrence Parker noted the town’s 2019 town law was approved under similar circumstances. Invenergy has asked Parker to clarify that ruling.
The 2020 Freedom wind law mirrors a new wind law approved last month by the Farmersville Town Board in that it places a 455- foot height limit on wind turbines in the town.
Invenergy, the developer of the proposed 340-megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm, had so new laws in five towns across three counties to site up to 117 600-foot turbines.
The other towns are Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County and Arcade in Wyoming County.
The impact of the new wind laws on the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm is unclear. Draft recommendations from examiners of the Alle-Catt application to the Siting Board have said new laws enacted after Dec. 5, 2019, won’t be considered.
The Cattaraugus County Planning Board on Thursday unanimously approved a new wind law proposed for the town of Freedom.
The Planning Board approval was without conditions.
John Hill, a member of the Freedom Town Board said Friday the Town Board hopes to vote on the new wind law at its March 16 meeting. It previously held a public hearing on the proposal.
The 2020 Freedom wind law was introduced in January after a new board majority took office opposed to provisions sought by Alle-Catt including height, distance to property lines and homes and noise levels.
“We’re looking at voting on it March 16,” said Hill, one of the sponsors.
“We want to make it law for the town of Freedom,” Hill said. “I don’t think the law we proposed is remotely excessive. We’re finally getting some decent protections for residents of the town of Freedom.”
Hill has been fighting windmills in Freedom since before the 2007 law was adopted.
At the same time the Freedom Town Board is seeking to make wind turbines safer for residents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to take local rule-making powers away from local governments, Hill noted. “He’s taking away every towns’ rights and every county’s rights. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Hill said he hopes Upstate lawmakers will stand up to Cuomo’s budget proposal to make it easier to site large wind and solar projects.
“If the windmills come into my town, I will be moving out of the state within a couple of years,” Hill declared. “I’m fighting until the fight’s over.”
Hill said he accepts Parker’s ruling that said the 2019 wind law was improperly approved.
“The 2019 law will be null and void when we vote on the 2020 law,” Hill said.
From his home, Hill said he would see nothing but turbines instead of hills and the horizon. He’s hoping Invenergy will become so annoyed with Freedom that they’ll give up.
Despite the best efforts of Invenergy and the appearance that the state has their thumb on the wind turbine scales, Hill said, “We have not lost our resolve to win this.”
Freedom United, the group of residents opposed to the Alle-Catt proposal that is seeking a more protective wind law, issued a press release last week that expressed concern over the examiners’ recommendations to the Siting Board, which is scheduled to act on Alle-Catt’s application in early May.
The Freedom United press release cited potential impact of the turbines on property values and concerns over noise and shadow flicker.
“The Examiners, therefore, recommend that the Siting Board find that some negative property value impact is possible, but that neither the amount nor the duration of such impact is quantifiable on the record,” the press release stated.
The release also states: “The Examiners continue to fail to utilize the World Health Organization’s guidelines for noise. They are recommending 45-decibel limits rather than the 42-decibel guidelines of the WHO and do not make an adequate explanation.”
The state departments of Health and Public Service “made repeated and strong arguments and recommendations to the examiners and Siting Board to follow the WHO guidelines to protect the public,” the press release states.
“Residents of the Alle-Catt project would be due to get up to about 120 hours of shadow flicker on their properties,” the release states. Recreational properties “were virtually disregarded when it comes to shadow flicker.”
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay called on state lawmakers to act to halt Cuomo’s attack on local governments fighting wind and solar projects.
“By virtually eliminating local government officials and community participation from the siting process, Gov. Cuomo is silencing the voices of those directly impacted by the projects,” Barclay said Friday.
“These complex decisions will have a substantial impact on businesses and homeowners and the overall well-being of communities. It is extremely disingenuous to act as if shutting out stakeholders is “streamlining” projects,” he said.
Barclay stated, “It is incumbent on the Legislature to take action now, and protect the interests of those we represent.
He added: “Our local governments have more expertise and an ear to the ground in the communities they serve. They understand the landscape and the needs of residents better than anyone else. Their voices must be loudest as we move forward with these new projects.”
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)