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May 9, 2013

 

Homer to draft wind turbine law

Town creates committee to oversee process of writing regulations

By SARAH BULLOCK
Staff Reporter
sbullock@cortlandstandardnews.net

HOMER — The town will work to create a draft law governing the installation of wind power turbines within its borders using the help of an outside attorney, the Town Board decided at its Wednesday night meeting.
Councilman Dan Weddle will head a committee to find an attorney and draft the law. Town residents Victor Siegle, of 75 S. Main St., and Larry Jones, of Route 11, will also be asked, at Town Supervisor Fred Forbes’ suggestion, to sit on the committee.
Jones participates in the town’s hydrofracking zoning advisory committee.
Other members could be added.
The town is looking for outside legal counsel, at Town Attorney Pat Snyder’s suggestion, as Snyder also represents Cortland County.
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement on a wind power project proposed by United Kingdom-based TCI Renewables was released by the county for public review April 12.
TCI Renewables plans to build 17 turbines in Solon, 11 in Truxton, and eight each in Cortlandville and Homer by 2016.
Snyder offered to provide the town a list of attorneys who may be willing to help them with the draft law.
Councilman Barry Warren declined to serve on the draft law committee because Warren has signed an agreement with TCI Renewables regarding property he owns in Truxton. Brian Young, another board member, also declined because his brother, Peter Young, has signed a land agreement with the company.
Siegle, reading from a prepared statement, asked Snyder if the town’s laws prohibit the construction of industrial wind turbines, and urged the board to draft a law to control the turbines construction if the town does not.
“First of all, in my opinion, as the zoning law stands right now these industrial wind turbines would not be permitted,” said Snyder.
The town’s zoning law contains a list of allowed activities and excludes all others, Snyder said, and constructing industrial turbines is not allowed.
TCI’s best argument against the town’s zoning law would be to seek a special use permit on the basis that it is a public utility, he said.
“The court cases are not very favorable to that argument,” Snyder said.
A local law to clarify any ambiguities in the current law would be the best way to prevent litigation, Snyder said.
Siegle provided the board with copies of a draft ordinance regulating windmills developed by Cortlandville, but with the word “Cortlandville” swapped out for the word “Homer.”
“I think it’s a fair law they’ve come up with,” said Siegle, a vocal critic of TCI who helped Cortlandville develop its turbine regulations, which are very restrictive.
A public hearing on the Cortlandville proposed ordinance which sets out regulations for siting, constructing, operating and decommissioning wind towers was scheduled for May 15 and the Cortlandville Town Board plans to vote on the ordinance June 19.
Also at the meeting, Snyder suggested to the board that it create a local zoning law that requires an applicant to pay the cost of a consultant if the town needs outside expertise when considering a project.
“It should be in the zoning law and I didn’t see it in the zoning law,” he said.
Councilman Kevin Williams was leery that the proposed statute could be used to prevent businesses from starting projects by recklessly racking up consultant fees.
“We need to look at that for abuses or possible unintended consequences,” Williams said.
Forbes stated that the town Planning Board should have input in the consideration of creating a new law governing consultant fees.

 

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