Ag and Markets again tells Gaines to not move Watt turbine

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2015 at 12:00 am

State officials say town may be sued if it insists on turbine relocation

Photo by Tom Rivers – The 154-foot-high wind turbine at Watt Farms on Route 98 has been a source of litigation for two-plus years. The Town of Gaines wants the turbine to be moved away from the farm market and a U-Pick area.

GAINES – Town officials are again being told by state Agriculture and Markets officials to not demand a 154-foot-high wind turbine at Watt Farms be relocated.

Town officials have insisting the turbine be moved away from the farm market and U-Pick area. Town Supervisor Carol Culhane and Michael Grabowski, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, both have said public safety is at risk with the tower so close to Watt customers.

The town wants the tower to have at least a 169.4-foot setback from the tower and public areas at the farm market along Route 98.

The town determined that setback by multiplying the top of the tower and tower blade (154 feet) by 1.1. But Ag and Markets says the setback should be determined by multiplying the blade length – 23.6 feet – by five, which would be 118 feet.

Ag and Markets first sent a letter to the town on Jan. 14 from Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. The town did not respond to that letter directly, which prompted another letter on March 20 from Michael Latham, director of the Division of Land & Water for Ag and Markets.

Latham said Gaines needs to comply with the order from Ag and Markets or face legal action from the state.

“If the Town and Zoning Boards of Appeals do not confirm that they will comply with the Commissioner’s Order, the Department may take legal action to enforce the Order and will seek costs and attorney’s fees,” Latham wrote in the letter to town officials.

In the commissioner’s letter in January, Ball said it was “unreasonable” for the town to demand the turbine be relocated at an estimated cost of $20,000.

The town could, however, restrict public access to the portion of the farm operation within 118 feet of the tower’s base or Watt could take the turbine offline when there are people in the U-Pick portion within 118 feet of the tower, Latham said.

Culhane and Grabowski said recently the town’s decision to demand the tower’s relocation was upheld by James Punch, State Supreme Court judge in Orleans County. They said the judge’s decision trumps the Ag and Markets.

Watt is appealing the decision by Judge Punch in December.