County Planning Board Rejects Windmill Height Increase

The Chautauqua County Planning board rejected a request to increase the maximum height of wind turbines of the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project. P-J file photo

MAYVILLE — At the Chautauqua County Planning Board meeting on July 11, the board decided to table their decision regarding a proposed amendment to the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project in the towns of Hanover and Villenova. On Monday night, the board took it up again and voted 6-3 to disapprove the amended application, which includes an increase in maximum wind turbine height and other changes to the wind parks project.

According to Don McCord, county planning director, there was a large crowd at Monday night’s meeting, as members of the public on both sides of the windmill debate turned out to express their views. As there were many who spoke out at the July 11 meeting, the board limited public comment to those who had not spoken at the last meeting.

Although the county planning board received several letters on both side of the issue over the past month, McCord said that most people in attendance at Monday’s meeting were concerned about the impacts of allowing the towers to increase another 100 feet in height.

“Many were concerned about the potential for additional noise impacts, the changed view of the area and potential ice throw,” McCord said.

He explained, “From both sides, we had a large quantity of information provided over about a 40-day period that the board took to review the application. It seemed like while both sides may not have agreed, they both did their due diligence when it came to their research.”

County planning board members expressed concerned over the potential inter-municipal impacts, as the original heights of approximately 499 feet do have a viewshed impact. McCord said that the board considered the latest environmental impact study posted on ballhillwind.com, which indicates that another 550 acres would be in view of the windmills. Some board members were concerned that this increased viewshed could mean more people impacted by shadow flicker and other aspects of the project.

While Villenova Town Supervisor Richard Ardillo was present at Monday night’s meeting, Hanover Town Supervisor Todd Johnson was not able to attend and sent a letter instead. Johnson’s letter expressed a similar sentiment to Ardillo’s letter at the July 11 meeting, which asked the county planning board to allow the town to move forward with their decision about whether or not the proposed changes should be allowed in their community. Johnson’s letter was careful to indicate that the town of Hanover had not yet come to a conclusion about the environmental impact studies or reached a final decision on the amended application.

Despite the county planning board’s disapproval, the towns can still override this decision — but only with a supermajority vote, which requires a minimum of four out of five members voting “aye.”

The town of Villenova is holding a special board meeting on Aug. 1 regarding the windmill application. The Hanover town board is awaiting Villenova’s decision and will likely take up the matter at their next town board meeting on Aug. 13.

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