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Allegany board approves wind farm; Town to get $1,000 for each of 29 turbines

Officials in the Town of Allegany, Cattaraugus County, are expecting a check for $29,000 this week -- the first of many payments to come from the operator of a wind farm to be built atop the Enchanted Mountains.

The Town Board voted, 4-1, Monday night to approve the 29 wind turbines on the hills above Chipmonk Road. The vote followed a four-year-long process that created passionate opposition among some residents desperately worried about their quality of life and the environmental impact of the windmills.

David Boser bought 66 acres along Chipmonk Road in 1991.

"Now I'm going to sit on the back porch and look at wind turbines," he said of the windmills, which will be nearly 500 feet high at the highest blade tip position.

Several hundred people attended Monday's special meeting in the Allegany Senior Citizens Center on Birch Run Road, as the board voted to approve the $150 million project and a rezoning of the land from a forestry zone to a wind corridor overlay district.

"It was a tough issue," Allegany Supervisor Patrick Eaton said, but he added, "I wouldn't have voted yes if I thought it would be a detriment to the community."

Councilman James Hitchcock voted against the proposal from EverPower Wind Holdings Inc.

Eaton said he contacted many communities that already have wind turbines before approving the first such project in Cattaraugus County.

The town negotiated a host community agreement with EverPower that requires the company, in addition to the payment of $1,000 per turbine, to give the town:

*$500,000 when construction starts.

*$285,000 in annual payments in lieu of taxes and/or company payment.

*$10,000 to be shared by the Allegany library and historical society.

The payments will not erase the tax levy for the town's $3.7 million budget, but it will help ensure programs will continue despite a 2 percent tax cap, the supervisor said.

The developer also has applied to the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency for mortgage tax and sales tax breaks on equipment, as well as a payment in lieu of taxes. Now that Allegany has approved the project, the IDA plans to schedule a public hearing, Executive Director Corey R. Wiktor said.

Eaton said EverPower also will upgrade town roads, repairing them while they are trucking in heavy supplies and equipment for the turbines, and restoring them when construction is finished.

He said that the area economy will get a boost from 200 temporary jobs created during construction and that stores and restaurants should see increased business, as 8,000 truck trips will be made during construction.

"We are an economically depressed area. How many $150 million projects are going to come through here?" Eaton said.

While the town gave its approval, there are other permits and approvals the company is pursuing, including road-use agreements with local governments to bring in the heavy equipment.

"We'd like to get a start on the project as soon as possible," said Daniel Lagiovane, a spokesman for EverPower Wind Holdings.

Preliminary work could start this fall, and the firm hopes the turbines are ready in October 2012, he said.

Lagiovane said a turbine manufacturer has not yet been selected, and the transportation route for supplies has not been finalized. But the company believes the route will go through the Town of Carrollton.

Opponents are ready. Boser said they plan to oppose the plan to bring heavy supplies over Nichols Run Road. Lagiovane said the company restores roads to their original condition.

Lagiovane also said that although the firm had thought it would need to blast as part of its excavation, that is not in the plans any more.

EverPower said that while it does not believe the project will adversely affect birds, the company will participate in a monitoring study by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Environmental filings state that nearly 230 acres of forest land will be impacted, including 25 acres that will be developed for the wind turbines, access roads and several buildings.

The damage to the scenic view is particularly disturbing to some opponents.

"You'll be able to go to Rock City Park and sit on a rock and have fantastic view of those turbines," Boser said. "You'll be able to stand in Allegany and see one behind Merton's Heart."