As 40-turbine wind farm plan progresses, Parishville planners eye changes to local wind law, seek input from public
By MATT LINDSEY
PARISHVILLE – The Town of Parishville Planning Board is making changes to its local wind law to make sound output and turbine setbacks more restrictive.
Planning board chairman Fred Wilhelm says the regulations could hinder the erection of the wind towers.Wilhelm said a draft of revisions, titled “Wind Energy Facility of the Town of Parishville, New York” was sent out to Iberdola, the company proposing the wind towers, who were to pass them on to leaseholders.
Some residents questioned why the board would send revisions to Avangrid, a subsidiary of Iberdrola, which is heading the project, but Wilhelm said identifying and disseminating the material to individual leaseholders would be difficult.
“We are just trying to seek input from everyone -- we’re not trying to hide anything,” he said.
The North Ridge Wind Farm calls for about 40 wind towers, about 500-feet-high, to be built in Hopkinton and Parishville.
“This is the biggest thing to happen to the area since the seaway,” Wilhelm said. “It’s important.”
Wilhelm said since sending the draft out he has not heard from leaseholders or Avangrid, but he has hard from 12-14 other concerned landowners.
Although Parishville is seeking modifications, some local officials do not believe changing local law or passing moratoriums will be of benefit.
Hopkinton Town Councilman Steve Parker Jr. says his understanding is that Article 10 would override local laws pertaining to renewable energy. Large wind projects with a capacity to generate 25 megawatts (MW) or more are reviewed according to provisions of the Public Service Law Article 10 siting process.
The two major changes to the local law, according to Wilhelm, would be more restrictive sound decibels and expanding the distance the towers would be placed from leases homes and a non-participating landowners property line.
Town laws written in 2011 and passed in 2012 were written when wind turbines were smaller, about 300 feet. Now the proposed towers are 500 feet.
Since the towers make more noise now because they are larger, the law needed to be updated, he said. “We want to make sure to people are protected.”
The change calls for sound decibels to remain .45 or below from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and .35 decibels from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.
Wilhelm says Avangrid has not formally asked about noise levels, but company officials “are concerned” about the noise restrictions proposed and said it could prevent construction from moving forward in the town.
“They don't think they can make them that quiet,” he said. “The town wants more restrictive laws,” he said, “and they (Avangrid) won’t like it.”
Changes to local law will call for the towers to be erected five times the height of the tower (500 feet) away from an adjacent non-participating landowners property line, as well as the same distance away from a leases residence.
“Avangrid said there was not enough wind in Parishville for 300-foot towers,” he said. “It wasn't feasible.”
Wilhlem said all towers proposed in the Town of Parishville are within the overlay zone Parishville created in 2013.
Towers in Hopkinton are shown outside their zone, but Hopkinton does not have a current zoning law, he said.
The public can view the law at http://www.parishvilleny.us/. “I want as many people to review it as possible,” Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm said the board would be working on finalizing a second draft.
He urges people on both sides of the issue to offer their input.
The Planning Board will begin meeting on the second Tuesday of each month at the town hall beginning in May.
State Could Overrule
Even with these changes, some local officials believe that state law would override local law.
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.
Hopkinton Town Councilman Steven Parker Jr. said it was the other council members “beliefs” that a moratorium would “buy the town some time” to further research the wind farm.
Parker however disagreed, he said that “with the Article 10 process moving forward a moratorium would do no good.”
On March 20, the Town of Hopkinton passed a moratorium on proposed wind turbines at a town board meeting. The moratorium was passed with a 2-1 vote. The moratorium is not official yet, according to Wood. She said she had emailed a lawyer and was awaiting answers. The moratorium will be discussed further at the next town board meeting April 10 at the town hall.
Meanwhile, the Town of Parishville voted down a moratorium March 10 despite concerns from locals. The unanimous vote came after community members spoke out against the proposed which have divided the community.
Avangrid Renewable spokesperson Paul N. Copleman said benefits of wind towers include creating jobs and providing revenue for landowners and the rest of the community.
Based on projects in the past, Copleman believes the wind towers would lead to six permanent jobs and about 125 construction jobs likely lasting 12 to 18 months.
Copleman says revenue for landowners and farmers could be $500,000 and around $750,000 for the community.
Avangrid officials have stated in the past that they would likely ask the two towns, the Parishville-Hopkinton School District, and St. Lawrence County to allow the company to make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs. If so, each of those entities will have to decide, one by one, if they will grant those tax breaks.
Last year, New York adopted a Clean Energy Standard that commits the state to generate half of its electricity from renewables by 2030.