County Legislature says it won’t get involved in Barre wind turbine project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 October 2019 at 4:04 pm

ALBION – Some Barre residents, who have voiced concerns to the Barre Town Board over a proposed wind turbine project, took their pleas to the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday.

But the County Legislature won’t be weighing in on the project, said Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Barre resident Sue Webster asks the Orleans County Legislature to take a stand against the proposed Heritage Wind project in Barre, where Apex Clean Energy wants to build 33 wind turbines. Webster said the turbines will reduce property values for many residents.

“Our 10 towns are run by home rule,” Johnson responded after three residents addressed the Legislature on Wednesday. “That is why we have town government. This is not a county matter. It is not up to the County Legislature to tell the town supervisors and town boards how to run their towns.”

Barre resident Sue Webster asked the Legislature to advocate for Barre residents, who Webster said will see property values fall from large turbines on the landscape. Apex Clean Energy wants to build 33 turbines that could top 650 feet in height.

“While some people will make thousands of dollars from their leases, others will have their property values decimated,” Webster said.

The county has advocated for lakeshore residents whose property has been damaged from flooding by Lake Ontario. Webster urged the Legislature to take up the cause of Barre residents who she said face a different threat to property values.

John Metzler, another Barre resident, said the turbines could affect the community’s health, and will consume lots of good agricultural land. He said the turbines also need precious resources for their construction.

Kerri Richardson, president of Clear Skies Above Barre, said seven town officials have conflicts of interest with the project, yet continue to speak on its behalf at town meetings, or with their official votes.

Metzler has asked the County Board of Ethics to look at those conflicts. Kathy Bogan, the county attorney, said the Ethics Board would be meeting “in the next few months” to consider the complaint, whether town officials have accepted money from Apex and then voted or acted in an official role in favor of the project.

The county stands to receive some money from the project in a PILOT, payment of lieu of taxes. That is currently being negotiated with representatives from the town, county and school districts.

The Legislature has passed officials resolutions about wind energy projects. It formally opposed the state’s new process of having a Siting Board review the projects and have the final say in whether they are approved. The Legislature said that takes away home rule from communities in determining whether a large-scale energy project should be permitted in a town.

Most recently on June 26, the Legislature passed a resolution urging the governor to direct the new Article 10 Siting Board “to require wind turbine projects to include all standard environmental and comprehensive health impact and environmental studies including consideration of the added potential for sleep disturbances from pulsating night noise dominated by low frequency and infrasound, especially under stable atmospheric conditions.”

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