Cape audience hears of wind farms’ benefits

CAPE VINCENT — Bringing a wind farm into the community was “one of the best things that ever happened” to their towns, according to some speakers at an informational meeting hosted by Voters for Wind Tuesday night.

Sheldon Town Supervisor John Knab said the town will levy no land tax for the third straight year in 2011 thanks to a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Sheldon Energy LLC, the developers of the 75-turbine High Sheldon Wind Farm in the rural town in Wyoming County.

During its planning stages, the project was met with opposition from some Sheldon residents who sued the town for various reasons — alleged conflict of interest, attempting to block their views and a potential decrease in property values — but the town won all five lawsuits brought against it and is hearing few complaints now that Sheldon Energy is paying the town more than $750,000 each year.

“We were sued for everything you can think of,” Mr. Knab told about 160 people in the audience Tuesday at Cape Vincent Recreation Park. “I guess now that there’s no town taxes, everyone’s happy.”

The town government is currently debt-free and has been able to fix public roads and historic buildings among other things with funds provided by the wind farm developer, he said.

Sandy LaBarre, secretary for the Ellenburg town supervisor who once served as the town’s highway superintendent, said Noble Environmental Power LLC’s wind park also sparked controversy at first but argued that “what comes forth in the end is totally worth it.”

Ms. LaBarre, once hired by Noble to be its head of transportation, said the benefits that the wind project brought to Chateaugay in Franklin County, and at Altona, Clinton and Ellenburg in Clinton County were “phenomenal.”

“It has added to our source of income. In some towns, we have no tax at all and in other towns we have cut down a third of the taxes. We have no property for sale. Nobody has got any property to sell because the tax rate is so low now, that you want to hang on to what you’ve got,” she said. “The properties are worth more than it has been.”

Lewis County attorney Richard J. Graham said there is no evidence to indicate that wind turbines affect property values and that the county government has “seen no impact one way or the other.”

Mr. Graham also said PILOT agreements with wind companies will not affect the amount of state aid school districts receive.

“Because these projects are tax-exempt, they’re not on the tax roll. So they’re not included in the district wealth,” he said.

Loren D. Lyndaker, a former Harrisburg Planning Board member who lives 1,170 feet away from a wind turbine himself, said the noise and flicker from the turbines are “really not that bad.”

“It’s like living along the shore. Many times, you just don’t notice them,” Mr. Lyndaker said, adding that ice build-up in the winter can cause noise but that “nobody’s bothered in the house.”

Her said he notices the flicker on his lawn in the fall but only for an hour or two each day.

Mr. Lyndaker also said he regrets voting for some wind-related issues while on the Planning Board, as he receives payments for living near the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm, but added that he has abstained from voting on many resolutions related to the wind project due to the conflict of interest.

By JAEGUN LEE

Watertown Daily Times