Town Adopts Moratorium On Turbine, Solar Facilities

FALCONER — The Ellicott Town Board has adopted two local laws regarding the construction of wind turbines and solar farms.

The board, following a public hearing Monday in which no one from the public attended, adopted Local Law 3-2019 and Local Law 4-2019. The first established a yearlong moratorium on the construction of wind energy and commercial solar collection facilities within the town. The second opts the town out of tax exemptions granted by the state for wind and solar energy projects.

Regarding the moratorium, town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin said the local law will give the board some time to look into wind and solar farms and their potential impacts He did not mention whether a project was being considered in Ellicott.

“It’s basically so the town can educate itself on how best to protect our residents and the town when these facilities want to come into the town,” McLaughlin said. “The moratorium is good for one year for wind and solar.”

Specifically, the local law states: “The Town Council of the Town of Ellicott is concerned that the Town of Ellicott presently has no zoning regulations that govern the placement and operation of large wind energy conversion systems, commonly known as ‘Wind Turbine’ or ‘Windmill.'”

It later continues: “The Town of Ellicott will need time to study the issue involved in the operation and the potential siting of large wind energy conversion systems within the Town of Ellicott. … For a period of one year from and after the effective date of this law, no application for the construction or erection of a large wind energy conversion system or a commercial solar collection facility shall be filed, accepted or processed, nor any permit issued therefore, nor shall any person, firm or corporation construct or erect a large wind energy conversion system.”

Daniel Heitzenrater, town councilman, had asked board members in October to look into establishing regulations for wind turbines. He thanked William Duncanson Jr., town attorney, for the quick work done on the local laws.

“Obviously, we’ve seen a lot of activity around the county and the potential problems … in various neighborhoods,” Heitzenrater said.

The Portland Town Board in June passed a six-month moratorium on applications and permits for windmills. The board discussed extending the suspension in October.

At its most recent meeting, county Health Board members also discussed potential actions on industrial wind turbines, one being a moratorium on their construction until further studies have been done to provide local officials with more guidance.

The second local law, “Opting out of the tax exemptions provided by Section 487 of the Real Property Tax law,” will ensure commercial wind and solar farms don’t become tax exempt. In New York state, taxing agencies have to opt out of the law to be able to tax the utilities built upon a certain property.

“Down the road should one of these move in they would be on the tax roll,” McLaughlin said.

Both laws were adopted unanimously, with McLaughlin and Town Board members Janet Bowman, Katy Whitmore and Heitzenrater voting in favor.

In other news:

¯ A resident is requesting the zoning be changed on Hunt Road from residential to neighborhood/business in order to open a bakery and cafe in the spring. The board referred the request to the town’s planning/zoning board.

“It’s always good to have business interest in the town,” Heitzenrater said.

¯ The board passed a resolution to install a street light in front of a new property on Howard Street. Robert Pickett Jr., superintendent of highways, said there is a 1,800-foot stretch of Howard Street with only one light. Pickett said he contacted National Grid, which said it will install the 48-watt light.

The board also approved a resolution to install a similar light at the intersection of Strunk and West Oak Hill roads. Pickett noted that he had made a request for a light in 2017 and was again bringing it to the board’s attention. The installation will cost $3,900 and will be paid from a reserve fund.

“Right now it is pitch black,” Pickett said of the intersection. “It’s a big hazzard. I thought we needed it two years ago.”


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