Yates forms task force to work on local law for wind turbines

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2016 at 12:00 am

YATES – The Town Board has formed a task force to review and amend the local law for wind energy facilities, which was passed in 2008.

The Town Board named the task force last Thursday. Town Supervisor Jim Simon said the task force will look at setbacks, noise, property value guarantees and other issues with wind turbines.

The town approved its local law for wind energy facilities in 2008, after about two years of work from the town on the local law. Simon expects the update of the local law could be complete in six weeks to two months. The town will review how Somerset has proposed to change its local law for turbines.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said today.

Simon set March 7 as a deadline for the task force to propose changes in the local law to the Town Board.

The updated law will be subject to review by the Orleans County Planning Board and residents in a hearing.

John Riggi, a newly elected Yates Town Board member, was part of Somerset’s committee to update its wind energy law. Riggi served in the role as president of Save Ontario Shores, a citizens group opposed to the turbine. He and Simon will both serve on the Yates task force for the turbine law.

Other members include Paul Chatfield, Town Engineer; Gary Daum, Zoning Board chairman and County Planning Board member; Keith McKinney, Zoning Board member; Russ Martino, former town supervisor who oversaw 2008 Wind Law development; and at-large resident members, Carol Neal, Cindy Hellert and Andrew Cousins.

“Let’s look at it with a fresh set of eyes,” Simon said about the local law.

Hodgson Russ LLP of Buffalo will act as legal adviser to the task force. Dan Spitzer, an attorney from Hodgson Russ, advised the town a decade ago in developing its wind turbine law and will continue as an advisor, Simon said.

Apex Clean Energy has proposed up to 71 wind turbines in Yates and Somerset, with about two-thirds of the structures, peaking at 620 feet high, expected in Somerset. The company hasn’t submitted a formal application for the project.

In November, it submitted a preliminary scoping statement. More than 300 respondents with 1,000 comments were submitted to the NY Public Service Commission. Apex had a Feb. 11 deadline to respond to the comments but sought an extension until Feb. 29. The PSC agreed to the additional time.

James Muscato, Apex attorney, told the PSC in a letter that the company will give responses that are “meaningful and robust, and will demonstrate to the parties that their comments have been heard and considered.”

A seven-member Siting Board will review the final application by Apex. That board include five agency leaders for the state, and two residents from the project area. State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie were both to appoint a member from the local project area based on nominations from local elected officials.

Randy Atwater was previously reported to be Flanagan’s choice. But Atwater, as president of the Barker Board of Education, is an elected official, and elected representatives are now viewed as ineligible to serve on the committee.

Flanagan instead on Feb. 4 appointed Cathi Orr, a vocal critic of the project, to serve on the Siting Board. She used to live in Orangeville in Wyoming County but moved to Somerset after wind turbines were constructed in Orangeville.

“She is well-read on this issue,” Simon said. “She knows her stuff.”

Heastie didn’t name a local representative for the Siting Board. The issue has been left with Gov. Cuomo, and Simon said the governor is expected to name a resident from Yates soon.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and State Sen. Robert Ortt sent joint letter on Feb. 3 asking Audrey Zibelman, commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission, to work on the appointment of a Yates resident to the board.

The two state legislators noted Somerset had a representative from that town and Yates should also have a voice in the process.

“We firmly believe that equal representation from both Counties as enumerated in Article 10 should be appointed from Orleans County,” they said in a Feb. 3 letter.

Yates and Orleans County officials have submitted the names of four people to be considered for the board: Russ Martino, Jeff Oakes, Cindy Hellert and Glenn Maid.