Cohocton Wind Watch: Italy zoning changes pave way for wind energy
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Italy zoning changes pave way for wind energy

Finger Lakes Times

PENN YAN — The Yates County Planning Board approved proposed incentive zoning amendments to the Town of Italy’s comprehensive plan that would make way for wind energy development.

Incentive zoning refers to designated areas in the town where wind turbines would be allowed and developers eligible for financial incentives.

At Thursday’s meeting, board member Dave Christiansen asked Italy Town Supervisor Margaret Dunn why the town didn’t address the zoning issue during its moratorium on wind farm development.

At that time, Dunn said a majority of people opposed wind farm development and the town eventually banned wind farms. However, a lawsuit filed by wind farm developer EcoGen LLC prompted discussions with the town attorney on incentive zoning, she said, with feedback from the town board and residents supportive of such an option.

She said the proposed zones encompass two locations, which were chosen because the areas have already attracted interest from developers and town residents there are interested in leasing their properties.

Christiansen questioned why Emerson Road is included in the zoning proposal because some residents there have backed out of potential involvement with developers. Dunn said she doesn’t think those residents wanted to back out, but were anxious about some proposed state pilot programs.

Board Member Carroll Graves asked if a developer could still sue the town over potential development areas that are excluded from the incentive zoning plan. Dunn replied that she hopes the zoning proposal will show courts that the town is allowing such development, even if it’s in a designated area.

Board member Lane Clute asked why residential turbines weren’t included in the proposal; Dunn responded that they are in a separate section of the zoning ordinance, and the town wants to continue working on that section because of criticism that it was too strict.

Clute said it seemed like residential turbines are banned in the current proposal; Dunn declined to discuss that issue because it was unrelated to the incentive zoning proposal at hand yesterday.

Clute also asked why the incentive zoning permits would go through the town board and not the zoning board. Dunn said that’s because the permits go beyond zoning regulations and would include financial incentive agreements. Developers would have to make payments in lieu of taxes and take responsibility for things like road repair and equipment, although specifics have not been determined because the proposal is not yet law.

Clute asked if the town was looking for host community agreements. Dunn said such agreements are included in the plan because they allow the town to negotiate with developers about such things like fixing roads, for example.

Despite Dunn’s statement that the town supports the incentives, Clute said a newspaper article about a wind farm public hearing indicated 70 percent of residents were against wind farms. But according to Dunn, 43 people were in opposition (about 12 of whom were not residents), 25 people spoke in favor of the farms and more than 100 letters and cards were received voicing support.

Clute asked why the town is collecting cards for feedback now, but didn’t during the 2006 public hearings. Dunn said she thought public hearings were weighted more than cards at the time, but has since learned that that isn’t the case.

Dunn stressed that yesterday’s discussion was not about the 2006 public hearing and said she was going to ask that Clute — a Town of Italy resident — be recused from the conversation if he didn’t stop pressing her about irrelevant issues.

Christiansen said the town might be pressured in the future by developers who want to erect wind farms in areas not included in the incentive zones, but Dunn said she hoped the zoning laws would protect the town for awhile.

Graves said the zoning proposal is an improvement from when development was banned.

Clute abstained from the vote.


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