FARMERSVILLE — Supervisor Robert Karcher abruptly excused himself from a meeting Monday after the Farmersville Town Board began talking about a road agreement with the developer of the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm.
The supervisor said later he left the meeting because both the road agreement with Invenergy and the host community agreements are contracts. Karcher said his father-in-law has a lease with Invenergy and he couldn’t participate in the host community and highway use agreements.
Karcher’s recusal left two town board members at the table: Deputy Supervisor Richard Zink and George Duncan. Councilman Richard Westfall, who has a wind lease and has been found to be conflicted, did not attend the special meeting, nor did Councilman Pamela Tilton.
Earlier, Karcher had presided over discussion of the proposed law with engineer David Britton of GHD Engineering.
Britton, who has worked on wind projects for 13 years, spoke of the difficulty posed by responding to complaints about noise levels from residents living nearby wind turbines. It can be difficult to duplicate conditions that led to the noise.
The proposed law calls for sound levels up to 50 dBA, except for 10 percent of the time, when the noise could exceed that level. Noise monitoring will be important in the year following start-up. Infrasound, too low to be audible, will also be looked at, Britton said. So will shadow flicker, the shadows created by spinning turbine blades.
The proposed revised local law, introduced last month, calls for a height limit of 600 feet, up from the current 450-foot limit. The revised law decreased setbacks from 1,800 feet a residence to 1,500 feet. It also reduced tip height to property or roads to 1,300 feet.
Farmersville United is seeking a 3,000-foot distance from a turbine to a home.
Zink spoke of his concerns that under the proposed wind law, turbines could take up to 120 days to repair. He wanted that changed to 60 days with any extension subject to a vote of the Town Board.
Duncan, who was appointed two months ago in wake of the resignation of Andrew Warner, asked Britton whether the large foundations for the wind turbines would impact groundwater.
Britton replied that the foundations may be 50 feet across and 20-30 feet deep. He said he was more concerned about runoff from haul roads and town roads.
Britton said it is very important to document the condition of town roads before construction. He also questioned a $700,000 cap on road costs by Invenergy.
Town Attorney David DiMatteo said the road agreement was actually written up in the Freedom agreement and was being used for discussion purposes.
Highway Superintendent Barry Tingue said town roads do not have a subbase and would need to be reinforced before heavy loads.
Britton said the final say on what reinforcement is needed should be up to the highway superintendent. Culverts may also need to be reinforced. Documentation is very important, he told the board.
“Our roads probably won’t withstand this type of usage,” Britton said. The developer will have to bring roads up to standards that will bear the weight. Then they will have to make repairs to bring the roads up to pre-construction condition.
DiMatteo reminded the board they had making reasonable accommodations for the town’s Amish community with oversize and overweight trucks using area roads during construction — particularly gravel and cement trucks.
When the two town board members had concluded their discussion with Britton over the road agreement, Karcher was summoned from outside the Town Hall and adjourned the meeting.
Later, he told the Olean Times Herald that the board could adopt the proposed wind law at it’s Aug. 19 meeting. He said there would not be a public hearing before then since there have been previous public hearings.
Since the Cattaraugus County Planning Board rejected the proposed wind law last year, it will require a super-majority, or four of the five votes. With Westfall, who has a wind lease, a declared conflict, all remaining four board members must support the local law.
“My biggest complaint is the animosity between the two sides,” Duncan said afterward. “It’s heart-breaking.”
Karcher said he agreed.
Farmersville resident Ginger Schroder, an attorney representing the Farmersville United group of residents seeking larger setbacks, said she was surprised that Karcher saw a conflict with the contracts and not with the wind law itself. “He seems to think it’s okay to vote on the wind law.”
Schroder said both the wind law and the road agreement “were drafted by Invenergy.”
Mark Heberling, president of Farmersville United, said it was frustrating the board would allow people to talk. He too was shocked when Karcher left the room. Only two board members questioned Britton over the road agreement. “This is nothing to rush into,” he added.
Alle-Catt is a 340 megawatt, 117 wind turbine system proposed in the towns of Farmersville, Freedom, Rushford, Centerville and Arcade.