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June 29, 2012

 

County begins wind farm project review

Public comment will start on environmental impact of roughly 50 turbines in 4 towns

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

A proposed wind farm slated for land in Homer, Cortlandville, Solon and Truxton advanced to the next phase of the project Thursday as Cortland County legislators declared the farm would have an impact on the environment.
The decision paves the way for the county to accept the environmental studies associated with the farm and put them up for public review in coming weeks.
Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) was the sole legislator opposed to the positive declaration, saying after the meeting she thought the county should have never taken the lead on the project’s environmental review. Briggs said each town should have considered the merits of the project individually.
Cortlandville officials have opposed the project and pushed for more restrictive setback distances between homes and turbines.
Legislators Tom Hartnett (D-4th Ward) and John Natoli (R-8th Ward) were absent.
The United Kingdom-based firm TCI Renewables proposes building about 50 turbines by 2015. The firm has come under fire for not being forthcoming with tower locations and for not agreeing to a pubic question-and-answer session as well as for offering low Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreements and other financial incentives for the project.
Legislators received maps of the farm’s proposed locations at the meeting Thursday. Cortlandville is slated for seven turbines, Homer slated for eight, Solon slated for 22 and Truxton for 11, according to the maps.
All of these towns are in various stages of drafting their own wind ordinance to govern the project.
A special meeting of the county Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday to accept the draft outline of the environmental impact statement from TCI.
This starts the clock for the 60-day period for the county to respond to the document.
Within this timeframe the county will also allow a 20-day period for a public scoping session, a period of time for the public to give input on the firm’s document. The public can comment on what areas of environmental concern should be included in the study, for example.
If the county does not comply with the 60 day timeframe then TCI does not have to address any comments submitted outside of this period.
Once the county has given its feedback on the outline of the draft impact statement, then TCI begins preparing its draft impact statement. TCI expects to submit this document by the end of the summer.
A public comment period would also be held on this document, and that is when the public can make more general comments on the project, such as concern about the aesthetics of wind turbines, for example.
At the time of the vote, several legislators faulted TCI for how it handled the project thus far.
“It could have been handled better by them,” Legislator Ray Parker (D-2nd Ward) said, adding that many municipalities still do not know the tower locations.
Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) said she was not sure if the appropriate process was followed by the firm to date.
But Legislature Chairman Mike Park (R-Homer) said attorneys and engineers for the project say it is ready to proceed to the environmental review and scoping study phase.
Briggs said after the meeting she thought towns should have been able to decide on their own whether they approved of the project, rather than the county being the lead agency and coordinating all the environmental studies.
“I’m not sure every town is supportive of the project. I would have liked it to be closer to the people, the decisions made closer to the people,” Briggs said after the meeting.
Briggs also said she did not like the fact TCI declined a public question-and-answer forum.
“I don’t like companies that won’t speak with the public,” Briggs said.

 

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