An unscheduled vote has closed the door on the possibility of future wind farm developments in the Town of Yorkshire.
Yorkshire's zoning precludes wind farms and would require an amendment or a special use permit to go forward, but Town Board members decided to put legislation in place after the Southern Tier Advocates for Renewable Technology (START) pressed for a wind energy conversion facilities law that would attract and permit a wind farm.
That law was drafted in May designating possible future development in a neighborhood in the western side of the township. The Town Board began traveling to other wind farm communities and researched various impacts.
A finding on environmental impacts would have been the next step prior to a public hearing on the draft law, but instead, board members voted 4-1 Monday to halt the move toward rezoning or legislation to allow special use permits for commercial wind farms.
"It was time," said Councilwoman Connie E. Walker, who made the motion after reading a letter from longtime resident Dan Hilliker.
Hilliker stated his opposition to wind farms and pointed to the town's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which was written to preserve and protect the rural nature of the town, and the lack of accommodations for wind facilities in the zoning law.
Walker said she decided on her own to make the motion because she had the feeling her fellow board members were beginning to get uneasy about how a project would affect the town, its property values and the ability of wind developers to obtain financing.
She told the board that after extensive research and listening to the pros and cons from all sides, including that of developer Horizon Wind Energy, that the impacts "would undoubtedly affect the quality of life of the 200-plus households west of McKinstry Road."
That is the area targeted by Horizon for its 30-megawatt facility powered by 15 to 20 turbines and connected to two more wind farm arrays in Machias and Ashford.
"How natural is replacing wooded areas and farmlands with 420-foot wind turbines, not to mention the effect on residents. The wind industry would remove forever the reason they built their homes in that area in the first place," said Walker.
Councilman Michael E. Miles told the Board he wanted a public hearing, but the vote proceeded and he cast the only "no" vote.
START co-chairman John Noto of Yorkshire said Wednesday he agrees with Miles and added that he is upset at the lack of public comment. He said the vote violates the First Amendment rights of those who favor the project and want to talk about it. His feeling is shared, he said, by 100 others who want to open up a new dialogue so the project can go forward, mostly for economic reasons and a projected tax reduction of 22 percent to 25 percent.
Noto said that Horizon has tried the easier path of working with the town but the company could pursue other options, including filing a building permit application that would trigger a decision from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Horizon project manager Gary Davidson did not attend the meeting, but commented later that the vote to end discussion for his project "isn't favorable."