BARRE – The Town Board will have a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 25 to vote whether to hire a consultant to review the town’s wind energy ordinance.
The board had the matter on its agenda during Wednesday night’s board meeting but didn’t have a quorum to vote on that issue following the resignation of Richard Bennett as a town councilman and the absence of Tom McCabe.
The three other members at the meeting included Larry Gaylard, Lynn Hill and Town Supervisor Sean Pogue. Gaylard has agreed to lease some of his land to Apex Clean Energy for a wind energy project so he abstained from the vote. That left Barre with only two voting members at the meeting.
Apex has agreed to pay up to $50,000 for the town to hire a consultant to review the Barre ordinance for wind energy projects.
A consultant affiliated to the University of Buffalo will be asked to make a recommendation on turbine height, setbacks from property lines and homes, shadow flicker and sound from turbines.
The town didn’t detail the name or organization of the consultant at Wednesday’s meeting. Lance Mark, the town attorney, said he didn’t want the consultant to be “harassed” with phone calls, emails and messages. He said the consultant isn’t affiliated in any way with Apex or citizens group – Clear Skies Above Barre – opposing the project.
The Town Board and Planning Board debated how to modify the wind energy ordinance for much of 2018, but the Town Board in January 2019 decided to leave the ordinance alone. That decision didn’t seem to please anybody.
The town ordinance caps turbine height at 500 feet. Apex wants turbines at 650 feet or higher for the Barre project, which could include up to 33 turbines. If the town sticks to 500 feet, Apex could seek a waiver from the local law from a state siting board, which reviews the large-scale wind energy projects as part of a new Article 10 process through the state.
Barre last updated the ordinance in 2008, at a time when most turbines were about 400 feet high. The current ordinance says the turbines need a property line setback of at least 1.5 times the tip height. That is for the property lines where the turbine is located.
The current ordinance also says the turbines need to be at least 1,000 feet from any existing residential or commercial building.
Apex, during discussions with the town in 2018 and early 2019, agreed to 1,500 foot setbacks from residential buildings. The company also suggested 1.5 times the tip height for setbacks from property lines for non-participating property owners, or landowners without an Apex lease.
Clear Skies said the setbacks should be six times the turbine height. That would be at least 3,600 feet or more than a half mile for 600-foot-tall turbines.
The town also wants to set rules for shadow flicker, noise and other environmental issues, as well as the decommissioning of the turbines.
John Metzler, a vocal critic of the proposed project in Barre, urged Barre officials to tell Apex that Barre doesn’t want the project.
He noted a group of about 100 property owners and residents in northern Chautauqua County in September filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court against the developers of a wind farm, claiming to have suffered from having wind turbines too close to homes.
The lawsuit includes residents in the Fredonia, Cassadaga and Forestville areas, who are suing the developers of the Arkwright Summit Wind Farm. The plaintiffs say the turbines have caused sleep disturbance, annoyance, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, motion sickness, bodily sensations, fatigue, stress, depression, memory deficits, inability to concentrate, anxiety and an overall reduced quality of life.
Metzler has sent town officials copies of the 78-page lawsuit.
“Why are we even considering something that will harm the citizens?” he asked the Town Board.
Chris Loss, a supporter of the project in Barre, said the recent town election shows the majority of the voters back the project.
Sean Pogue was re-elected town supervisor with 360 votes compared to 272 for Gerald Solazzo, who ran under the independent “Citizens for Change.”
“There was an election,” Loss said, directing her comments to people critical of the turbines. “The people have spoken. They want the wind turbine project to go through. You guys need to back off.”
There were five candidates on the ballot for town council seats. Two will be elected. Margaret Swan, a Republican and Independence candidate, is in the lead with 307 votes, followed by Kerri Richardson (Citizens for Change, Conservative) at 296 and Cindy Burnside (Citizens for Change) at 270. Other candidates include LuAnn Tierney (Democrat), 237; and Bradlee Driesel (R, I), 105. Driesel stopped campaigning and urged residents to support Swan and Tierney.
The Board of Elections will count absentee ballots on Nov. 19.
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