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Litchfield Town Board Closer To Passing Wind Ordinance

Utica, NY (WIBX) – The Town of Litchfield held another Board meeting last night to review and make changes to the Wind Committee Ordinance. Several votes were passed that will affect future wind farm projects in the area. The meeting last night featured four speakers who presented their case for and against the wind turbines Northwind & Power hopes to construct.

Town Board Members reviewed the law, went through some of the set backs and fees for the project–voted–and moved to send the amended Wind Committee Ordinance back to the Town Attorney, Daniel Spitzer, for his review and comment. Board Member, Kathleen Entwistle highlighted some of the zoning set backs saying, “The first zone would be a 1000 foot set back, which would allow no residential structures within that zone. Zone 2 would be a 2500 feet–that is a property setback, and anyone within the 2500 feet would have to be a participating landowner of the project. The third zone is a 5000 foot setback from the center of the towers.”

Entwistle said residents who are not opposed to the turbines and who live beyond the 2500 and 5000 foot limit can allow them to be constructed on their land however, they must sign an easement for the project to move ahead. The board also voted to charge a fee of $2,500 per Megawatt for the Wind Energy Facility Construction permit. A $1,000 fee for a 2-year permit for the construction of a Wind Measurement Tower. Also, $25 for a one time construction permit and $25 for a small Wind Turbine permit. Patrick Doyle, President of Northwind & Power said the Boards decision goes against their own Attorney’s, advice and added that Board members clearly don’t recognize the legal standards of setting these fees, saying, “It’s not supposed to be a money making venture.”

Northwind & Power Project Manager, Owen Grant said the Boards decision will restrict their plans to move ahead. He said, “When you look at other communities that have wind projects, the setbacks are not nearly as far as these distances. Certainly we respect a Towns obligation to protect the citizens and enact regulations that are in the citizens best interest however, this would more than likely make a project very, very challenging in any Town in New York for sure but, I wouldn’t say impossible.”

Grant was chastised by one resident who accused him and his company of looking to profit from the deal and of tearing the town apart. The elderly resident said the reason Northwind & Power is so adamant about pushing this project through is because of the Federal funding it would receive. Owen did not deny that his company stands to benefit if the project gets off the ground before the 2012 deadline saying, “For certain there are tax breaks as with all electricity generation there are tax incentives. For a wind project right now there’s an option for production tax credit, which would be based on per unit of production or an investment tax credit, which was part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act or Stimulus Act, to help keep renewable energy going.”

Grant said the wind industry currently employs 80,000 people in the US–over 20,000 in manufacturing jobs alone, and the investment tax credit was designed to help keep green projects like wind farms going. He said the move by the Federal government allows a company to have an investment tax credit–up to 30-percent of the cost of the project–in grant money, after the commencement of construction. He said however, everything Northwind & Power has done up to this point has been on their own dime.

Town residents, Angela Martin and Adrienne Albin said they support the wind turbine project, which they said has been a long time coming. Martin said, “There’s been a lot of false information passed, a lot of fear induced information–the only thing I can say to residents is, go out and find information for yourself and make sure it’s from a reliable source.” She said a project like this would be beneficial for the area because, “there’s not a lot going on here.” Martin and Albin also came to the defense of the former Town Supervisor, Wayne Casler who resigned effective November 30th, along with his wife who also served on the board, due to the turmoil surrounding the wind project. Casler was accused by town resident Pat Christensen during a board meeting on October 12th of corruption, and having a conflict of interest due to his involvement to pass the wind ordinance, and his employment at Barrett Paving–a company set to gain a contract for the construction of the wind project.

Entwistle said an emergency meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 23rd at 7:30PM in Litchfield to appoint an Interim or Deputy Supervisor. She said the board already have the person who will take over for Casler in mind but did not want to release the information until the meeting was held. She said after the review by the Town Attorney and if no adjustments are needed, then the Wind Committee Ordinance will head to the Herkimer-Oneida Planning Board for their review, and then back to the Town Board to be put into law.

Enwistle said wind developers may think twice before making plans to build wind turbines in the Town of Litchfield. She said, “Northwind & Power are looking to put a wind farm in Litchfield however, I’m not sure that the setbacks that we passed tonight will make it feasible for them at this time.”

Doyle said the setbacks will not derail his companies, (Northwind & Power) plans to move ahead and even quoted a bible verse to drive home his point about overcoming challenges. The Wind Ordinance is set to be in place by the start of 2011.

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