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Vote planned on limits to wind farms

A revised proposal for wind farm regulations could be voted into law by the Farmersville Town Board Monday night.

Town officials last December entertained a public presentation by Noble Environmental Power, the wind farm developer now launching a 67-turbine facility in Eagle in Wyoming County and expected to seek a similar permit in Centerville in Allegany County. The board took the company's suggestion to draft the law for protection in the absence of any zoning ordinance.

If passed, the law would apply to Noble or any other wind farm developer. Similar guidelines were enacted by the Town of Centerville last fall. After a legal challenge by a group of opponents, the law was upheld in Allegany County Supreme Court. Noble is expected to submit an application for a wind farm permit in Centerville. Guidelines are also under discussion in the Town of Freedom, located in Cattaraugus County between Centerville and Farmersville.

Farmersville's proposed law limits the turbines' height to 450 feet, and establishes minimum setbacks of 1,000 feet from the closest neighboring residential wall.

The board also expanded a provision for placement of tower warning signs, facing four directions instead of one, and revised provisions for private wind systems producing up to 100 kilowatts.

During the April 19 hearing, some residents said they support wind farms as a renewable energy source, and one resident sought an exemption for 12-volt turbines used on farms. However, another speaker, who said he worked in the wind farm industry, warned of the potential for accidents because the technology of gearboxes and turbines is still in its infancy. Another resident complained that not enough residents had been informed about the law.

Town Supervisor Fritz Zuech replied that the proposal has been in the process for a year. He added that if the board votes to adopt the law it can be changed later.

"This law is not stone. If we don't do this anyone can come in with only a building permit. We are doing the best we can do," Zuech said.

Cattaraugus County Legislator Jerry E. Burrell, R-Franklinville, said after the hearing that the Legislature will have some approval function as a result of the law.

Town Attorney James I. McAuley said the county will be involved in any host community agreement with a wind farm permit applicant.

Brad King, the Noble project manager who has begun negotiating easements from an undisclosed number of Farmersville landowners, said his firm has not submitted an application in Farmersville.

He confirmed that people have been receptive to a possible wind farm and noted he has seen "good readings" from wind speed data collected on Pigeon Hill.

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