Measure taken to prevent controversial wind turbine proposal

The Town of Yates in Orleans County has revised its local ordinance to prevent a proposed wind turbine project. 13WHAM spoke with neighbors on both sides of the issue. (WHAM photo)

Orleans County, N.Y. (WHAM) - Susan Atwater and Donna Bane are both farm owners in the Town of Yates. They said they've seen people leaving the area and believe a proposal for windmills will help breathe life back into the community.

“We both live in communities that have been declining in population,” said Atwater. “As wind comes into an area, it can also draw other businesses that want to take advantage of the opportunity for the availability of wind."

The Virginia-based company Apex Clean Energy is proposing to install about 50 windmills on farmers’ properties. More than 100 residents like Atwater and Bane have signed lease agreements with the company, but they said everyone can benefit.

“This major company that has a major investment in our community will pay a great deal of taxes or a payment in lieu of taxes,” said Atwater.

Bane agreed.

“My taxes keep going up, because I own around 200 acres, and they went up again this year," said Bane. “Hopefully it (project) will benefit the community, lower our taxes. It's not just me. A lot of people in the town are struggling to pay their taxes."

The project, however, has been met with controversy.

“This is just the wrong place for these,” said Kathy Evans. “I'm concerned about property values. I think they're going to decrease, which will decrease the town tax base. Any small tax savings we'd have from a PILOT program would be eliminated from property values going down and tax base going up."

While the town legally may not be able to stop the proposed project, leaders said they're taking steps to make it more difficult to install the windmills.

The town recently updated its law to increase the distance windmills can be from homes and further restrict the amount of the noise they make.

“This law that we passed is for the protection of the constituency, the protection of wildlife and the protection of quality of life in the town," said Town of Yates Councilman John Riggi. “The town has shown through numerous surveys an overwhelming opposition to the project. and industrialization to this town."

According to town officials, the amended law will take effect soon. Even so, Apex can still move forward with the project as long as it’s approved by the state siting board for electric generating facilities.

Apex officials say it plans on submitting a formal application for the project this summer.

Lighthouse Development Manager Taylor Quarles said Apex is disappointed in the town's decision. His full statement reads:

“We are disappointed in the town board’s second revision to the wind law in two years which is very clearly aimed at banning residents from ever having the opportunity to benefit from a wind project and totally discounts the agricultural community on which the area was built. Lighthouse Wind’s significant support in Yates and Somerset includes more than 100 signed landowners representing 10,000 acres of land and numerous non-landowners who understand the economic benefits and tax relief the Lighthouse project would bring to two towns, two counties and two school districts.”

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