Alexander: Town Holds Public Hearing before Crowded House:
Turbine proposal draws concerns
Residents filled the room as the town Zoning Board heard public comments on a proposed wind energy generation turbine on Dry Bridge Road.
The 4.5-megawatt turbine would be 640 feet tall and would be located on the property of Dale and Brenda Spring, two parcels of land which total about 147.4 acres. The board took no action following the public hearing, which lasted a little less than an hour.
Marc Kenward, senior associate at the consulting firm Erdman Anthony noted wind turbine energy projects such as the proposed one are allowed and regulated under the town’s zoning code.
The primary entrance to the site would be from Broadway Road (Route 20), a 20-foot driveway along the side of a neighboring parcel. There would also be a 16-foot-wide, 300-foot access driveway and pole farm for interconnection off Dry Bridge Road. Poles and wires for connection to National Grid would be along the side of the 300-foot access drive. There would be almost 3,400 acres of tree clearing and grubbing. The wind tower would be on about 3,515 square feet.
A variance is required through the Zoning Board because the height of the turbine exceeds the maximum height allowed by zoning, which is 500 feet. The setback requirement for this proposed turbine is 975 feet. An 82.3-foot setback variance from the property to the north of the site is requested and a 65-foot setback variance is requested for property to the west of the turbine site. In both cases, the property owner is willing to provide an 85-foot-wide setback easement.
Resident Frank Morse said he’s apprehensive about the proposed turbine. He asked if people at the meeting heard the saying “came with his nose under the tent” meaning a small decision with larger, more serious consequences.
“I think this is what we have here. You get one 640-foot wind tower in, within the next four or five years, you’re going to see more of them,” Morse said. “We don’t need that in our beautiful countryside. You get a wind turbine out there, I don’t care — you can live 10 miles away from there, I think you’ll be able to see it. I myself, I don’t like it.”
Resident Michelle Taylor asked whether money paid to the community is going to be enough to put up with what she called an eyesore.
David Strong, senior project developer, wind for Barrego Solar Systems, the project engineering firm, said one year of data will show what the project can afford.
“Approximately $250,000-$300,000 is the range that we expect. It could be a little more. It could be a little less,” he said. “That’s a one-time payment. Annually would be likely that divided by 15 years. Typically, these agreements are about 15 years.”
Using $300,000 as an example, Strong said an annual payment to the town would be $20,000 over 15 years.
“That’s just the host agreement. Then, there’s the PILOT agreement — the payment in lieu of taxes. That is likely for the town, because the town gets a smaller share than the school district and the county. That would likely be less per year, but still an annual payment, about $7,000 to $8,000 is the range that they’re coming in now,” he said.
Before the town takes action, developers can’t carry out an agreement with the town, Strong said. He said he wanted the town to know that project officials are committed to this proposal.
“I think economic development of any kind is really important. I’ve been in the industry for a long time and I like to try to do these projects locally,” Strong said. “It’s not a lottery winner for the town. It’s a single turbine. It’s what we can do.”
Don Partridge lives in Batavia, but owns property on Dry Bridge Road, directly east of the proposed project site.
“I think you need to keep an open mind in how we’re going to advance our environment in the future, the more and more demands for electricity. I’m in favor of the project,” he said.
Adrienne Schiller of Alexander asked what the manufacturing cost for the project is.
Strong said the cost depends on what wind turbine is purchased. He said the project would only use a reputable wind turbine vendor.
“Wind turbines are quite expensive. They can run as much as $3 million for a wind turbine. Then, the cost to do the road and the foundation, the insulation is, on top of that, much more. I’m not sure exactly the number of what it would be. You’re looking at at least another million dollars to build it,” Strong said.
Only when the proposal goes for a building permit would project planners know the cost.
Asked Schiller: “If the manufacturing cost is $3 million to $4 million, what is the income to the manufacturer in the end, after all this huge expense? How much of a percentage of that is our community actually getting?”
Strong said he doesn’t know how much the manufacturer would make and that the manufacturer is having trouble staying profitable, with inflation.
“As far as a proportion of what the town would get, I will say, of all the wind and solar projects in the state, this is definitely the best deal per megawatt that exists,” he said.
Charlie Woodruff of Dry Bridge Road said he understands the excitement for the project, but told project officials, “It’s not outside your door. It’s going to be outside my door.”
“Let’s be honest here. This is all about money. For the community itself, we, as the residents, we’re not going to be reaping that much money,” he said. “Are my taxes going down?”
Woodruff estimated the community is about 50 miles from Niagara Falls and the electricity it produces, and questioned whether Alexander needs a wind turbine.
Resident John Volpe presented an illustration to the Zoning Board and audience that he said shows the size of a two-story house compared to a turbine the height of the proposed one. He also had a picture a project official gave the board showing what the turbine is expected to look like and a pole nearby.
“These pictures, you shouldn’t even be giving these out, because that’s not truly giving the size of this,” he said. “If no other place in New York state is actually going with the (640-foot turbine) and we have clusters of them, why would a small town like this have this giant thing standing up ... like that — for what purpose? I’m hoping the board will seriously look at what I just gave them, compared to a house, and keep that in mind when you go to vote.”
Letha Kreutter of Alexander said she is an ex-farmer. She claimed nobody in the room wants to see a wind turbine go forward because farmers might make a little more money than they do now, to which someone replied, “Nobody said that.”
“I think they need to have a little support,” she said, saying the project could give farmers a little extra on their electric, a little off on their taxes.
“It helps the whole community, I’d go for it,” Kreutter said. “There’s no houses around this (wind turbine).”
Board Chairman John Meier said the board is not for or against the proposal.
“We’re just the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing these changes they’re proposing,” he said. “We’ll take your opinions, don’t get me wrong, but we have made no decisions whatsoever.”