There are provisions in this law to properly address the siting of industrial wind.
BP is attempting to bypass this protective zoning law by pursuing their project through an Article 10, process.
The establishment of a proper zoning law in Cape Vincent that adequately addresses Industrial wind development has been a long and ugly process...
In early 2006, a secretive wind campaign became open to public scrutiny.
Initially adequate setbacks were a big point of contention.
As the setback, issue heated up Planning Board Chair , and wind lease holder Richard Edsall began to make public statements : "If we don't pass a law one way or another, they're still coming. People have already signed contracts."
As the public involvement and discontent grew Mr. Edsall made the following statement, “I arbitrarily make a recommendation to go back to the River Front and Lake Front zones as setbacks.”
When citizens in the community made it known that they wanted protective setbacks of 2 miles, Mr. Edsall openly responded by saying, "Two miles would wipe out both projects."
In response to the direction the zoning amendment process was taking , Jefferson County Planner Mike Bourcy expressed his concerns in a fax dated April 7, 2006, ~ writing, “Anytime an amendment to a zoning law is proposed it must be in compliance with a comprehensive plan.
Article 2, of the proposed amendment, states that the purpose of the amendment is to mitigate potential negative impacts on the Seaway Trail, St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.” “I have not heard anyone on the Committee talk specifically that these impacts are mitigated by the proposed setbacks.
The discussion has always been who will or will not benefit depending on which setback is used.”
Bourcy further stated. I also wanted to point out that you want to be careful saying that an issue will be taken care of during site plan review. If a requirement is not in the Zoning Law, then the Planning Board must have a good basis for requiring it.” “The Town should not depend on the Department of Environmental Conservation requiring a setback from the shore in the area of the AR. (Agricultural Residential) district by the lake.”
Cape Vincent’s comprehensive plan, clearly defines its goals of discouraging commercial development i.e. utilities where the impact would have a negative impact on scenic vistas and tourism assets.”
Two months after these recommendations made by County Planner Bourcy, PB Chairman Edsall wrote a letter June 14, 2006, to the Town Board informing them that the PB had passed a resolution declaring that current zoning is sufficient to regulate wind development in Cape Vincent, and that the Town Board should abandon its efforts to amend current zoning law.
This current law did not include any provisions to adequately address the siting of Industrial wind turbines, other than site plan review process, which gives a great deal of discretionary control to the Planning Board.
June 15, 2006, Then- Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine wrote a letter to the Town Board as well urging the lease holding conflicted board members to vote on wind issues, telling them that it is their duty to vote even though they are conflicted additionally, he stated that governing by referendum (popular vote) is unwise.
The Aubertine letter was presented at the TB meeting of June 15, 2006, Subsequently, Supervisor Reinbeck and Councilman Orvis reversed their stance concerning protective turbine setbacks.
These setbacks had the potential to eliminate 12 turbines from Assemblyman Aubertine’s neighborhood. The revised boundary also allowed turbines as close as 1,600 feet from the centerline of Route 12 E.
Supervisor Reinbeck gave the following quote to the Watertown Daily Times as to his reasoning behind his change of course. “There’s been overwhelming support for total use of the AG district, to begin with,” “And furthermore, I see no reason other than visual impacts for anything other than that.” Orvis followed with “I can’t justify taking another 1,000 feet, whether it’s a farmer or just a regular land owner, of their property.”
August 10,2006 the TB moved forward with the adoption of zoning regulations for wind power development and issued a positive declaration that required an environmental impact study to determine the impacts from the new law.
It was discovered that the environmental reviews required would cost $40,000 +.
This cost became an issue at the TB meeting of Aug. 28, 2006, where Councilman Orvis told the board that he was not comfortable spending $40,000 + of the taxpayer’s money to have a State Environmental Quality Review done and end up not having turbines. Supervisor Reinbeck said he felt the same way.
Supervisor Reinbeck resolved to, “Discontinue the process of amending the Town of Cape Vincent Zoning Law to regulate wind towers.” This resolution followed the recommendations made by Planning Board Chair Richard Edsall in his July 14, 2006 letter to the Town Board .
Councilmen Marty Mason and Joe Wood abstained from this vote and the resolution did not pass.
Sept. 13, 2006, The Planning Board approved a motion to adopt the Town’s guidelines to regulate wind development.
This quote in the Watertown Times by Supervisor Reinbeck demonstrates that he was supportive of this action carried out by the Planning Board "They certainly can't sue us if we don't go through with the zoning amendments," "No one says we have to change our zoning." Mr. Reinbeck said.
This left the town with the option to designate turbines as utilities under the choice of approved uses in the town’s guidelines.
Acciona submitted an application for a wind power project in Cape Vincent at the PB meeting of Nov. 8, 2006.
The Planning Board under the tutelage of Chairman Edsall voted unanimously to be lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review process.
This maneuver would ultimately give the Planning Board complete control over the environmental review process.
The law did not spell out the kind of site plan use for a wind project nor did it prohibit wind development in the river and lake front districts.
To correct this would require an interpretation from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the adoption of the draft wind law by the Planning Board as a set of guidelines (the draft wind law banned commercial wind development along the waterfront).
The ZBA determined in a 3 to 2 decision on February 2007 that a commercial wind project could be considered a utility as defined in the current zoning law.
This eliminated the need for any new zoning regulations that might restrict the wind developments, including noise regulations.
ZBA member John Wiley voted in favor of this measure without disclosing his brother had a wind contract thereby creating a conflict of interest.
Wind Power Ethics Group filed suit challenging the ZBA decision to classify turbines as utilities.