LITTLE VALLEY — A proposed wind law change in the Town of Farmersville was given the green light from the Cattaraugus County Planning Board Thursday.
Planning Board members voted unanimously to approve the Farmersville Wind Facilities Law after making a few minor recommendations for changes in wording.
Board members Robert Keis Sr., also expressed concerns about the Farmersville Town Board’s proposal to consider all Amish homes as churches.
“A town cannot arbitrarily declare private property a church,” said Keis, the longtime Mansfield town supervisor. He suggested the town board get additional legal opinions on the issue.
The Amish often meet at one another’s homes for Sunday worship services. By declaring their homes churches, it would provide those residents with larger buffers between their homes and industrial wind turbines than other homeowners.
“I understand why they might want to protect the Amish communities,” Keis said, but added he was mostly concerned about taking private property off the tax rolls that other taxpayers would have to make up.
Keis also congratulated Farmersville Supervisor Francis “Pete” Lounsbury and other town board members on the wind law.
“It’s a very well-written document,” Keis said, adding he planned to keep a copy for reference if the issue comes up in Mansfield.
County Planner Marie Myers Shearing said the tip height in the 2020 local law is 455 feet — significantly below the 600-foot level in the 2019 proposal that the planning board voted against. The law approved by the planning board in August was voided by a majority of the new members of the Farmersville Town Board after taking office this month.
Myers Shearing said the 455-foot tip height was the smallest industrial turbine available. One of the prior objections of the planning board with the 600-foot height limit was that was not in keeping with the natural character of the county and would be visible far past the town line. The greater setbacks — 3,000 feet from a property line or residence and lower noise levels 42 dBA instead of 50 dBA under the old law. The 2019 law was 1.2 times tip height to a property line.
The new law is also designed to address low-frequency sound concerns — sound at a frequency below 20 Hz which can possibly affect some neighbors.
Myers Shearing said the planning staff recommendations was to approve the proposed local law and its county-wide impact. She said the law permits wind energy while at the same time protecting residents health and welfare.
Keis noted that the proposed law’s $500,000 fee plus $225,000 per turbine to be placed in escrow was “a boatload” of money.
“I’m not saying it’s right or wrong,” he said, adding he’s not sure whether it would make projects “remotely viable.”
The local law also contains a provision calling on a wind developer to guarantee the value of real property would not go down due to the proximity of turbines.
The 2019 Farmersville Wind Law was approved at the request of Invenergy, a Chicago-based alternative energy company that has proposed the 340-megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm with 117 turbines spanning five towns: Farmersville, Freedom, Centerville, Rushford and Arcade.
Farmersville Deputy Supervisor Mark Heberling said the town board would go back and look at the recommendations made by the county planning board to tweak the law.
Heberling said that while he doesn’t set the agenda, he expects the town board to address the proposed local law at its February meeting. He noted the board held a public hearing on the proposed wind law a week after it was first introduced Jan. 6.
“We didn’t hear many complaints at the public hearing,” Heberling said. “Residents are going to get greater protection. That’s what we wanted. It’s what we were elected to do.”