If developers file application prior to Hopkinton’s passage of new wind law, less restrictive 2011 law will stand
By MATT LINDSEY
HOPKINTON -- The Hopkinton town board needs to revise its wind law before Avangrid Renewables files its application for a wind farm or the existing less-restrictive wind law from 2011 would stand.
Avangrid, the wind power company planning to build 27 turbines in Hopkinton, plans to file its application in the coming months, according to Avangrid Communications Manager Paul Copleman.This gives the town some time to finalize a wind law and vote before it is too late to make changes. The law from 2011 calls for setbacks of 1,800 feet from a residence -- not the property line -- and 600 feet from the road.
“Our expectation is that we would file an application this summer,” Copleman said.
The law also would include language addressing sound decibel limits and whether or not to expand the project south of State Highway 72 near the Adirondack Park. Further, discussions on how to handle payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) will need to be agreed upon.
The board will discuss wind issues at its Feb. 12 meeting at 6:30 p.m. Town Supervisor Susan Wood said she thinks a March vote is possible.
The latest talks for the wind law called for setbacks of 2,500 feet from a property line of a non-participating landowner (more than five times the height of a tower), and sound decibels of 40 dBA.
Town councilmen Steve Parker has previously said that he would like to see the sound decibel limit increase from 40 to 45 decibels. Parker made the wind tower sound recommendation based on the international standard. Parker also felt the 2,500-foot setback was too restrictive, but offered no reason for that stance.
New council member Kelly Pullano, has openly expressed that she is against industrial wind towers in her town.
The issue of money remains as well.
The Town of Parishville planned to stand its ground of wanting full assessed tax value for the project. So far Hopkinton, Parishville-Hopkinton Central and the county have not made a decision on PILOTS versus full tax value.
Council members will need to discuss and make a decision about the financial outcome for their town.
If and when a vote happens there will only be four eligible voters. Councilman Gilbert Sochia is abstaining due to a conflict of interest.
Should the vote end in a tie, Wood was not sure the next step but speculated that the old law would remain in effect. She said she planned to consult with the town’s lawyer about how to handle a tie.
Avangrid has said in the past that $750,000 would be split between the host community, school and county. Now that Parishville has dropped out the slice of the pie appears to be larger for each entity.
“This update would deliver the municipal portion of the anticipated approximately $38 million in revenue over 30 years solely to the Town of Hopkinton,” Copleman said. “With this new revenue stream, the community would realize more opportunities to create jobs, improve infrastructure, and support local business growth.”
Wood said she was not sure where the $38 million figure came from, offering that maybe it includes money paid to leaseholders too.
The project initially called for 30 turbines in Hopkinton and 10 in Parishville. On Jan. 19 Avangrid announced that Parishville will no longer be a host community. Thus, their involvement as a town is over. They still have an interest in the project because they are a neighboring town, and it would impact the county and school as well.
“The overall tip height has not changed, but we are now planning for a much smaller project footprint,” Copleman said about the project.
Wood said she was told about Parishville no longer being considered by wind company officials on Jan. 19. No one from the wind company contacted Parishville town officials to let them know the news.
Parishville Town Supervisor Rodney Votra was critical of how Avangrid handled the situation but was not surprised. “Typical fashion of Avangrid — no one knows anything until they are ready to tell us,” he said earlier this month.
Votra plans to stay involved in the wind farm discussions so he can keep residents updated. “Parishville is right next to Hopkinton and it will effect the Parishville-Hopkinton school district,” he said.
Once an application is filed, the state siting board will meet to discuss and decide on the project.
Parishville resident Gary Snell and Hopkinton resident Ernest Parker will represent St. Lawrence County and Hopkinton at the meeting.
“We have been following a series of requirements prescribed by the Article 10 process to date, but the siting board does not get involved until we submit a completed application,” Copleman said.