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Planning board votes down wind project referral

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Planning Board had to repeat an action it took last year.

On Tuesday, the planning board voted to disapprove the town of Villenova’s zoning referral for the Ball Hill Wind Energy project. In July 2018, the planning board also disapproved of the town’s zoning referral.

Douglas Bowen, planning board chairman, said in the resolution the reason the board disapproved of the zoning referral is because of the additional proposed height of the wind turbine towers changing from 495 feet to 599. He said the change in height could have a negative impact on residents in the area.

Also, the planning board disapproved of the zoning referral because the town board didn’t take the appropriate steps as far as a state environmental impact statement for the potential affect on bald eagles in the area. Bowen said there was no management plan submitted on the potential loss of bald eagles.

The planning board had to vote on the same proposal again Tuesday as it did in July 2018 because of an article 78 that was filed against the project. Don McCord, county planning and community development director, said Judge James Dillon ruled in state Supreme Court that the town’s state environment impact statement wasn’t sufficient enough so the Villenova Town Board had to start the process again of resubmitting information on the project.

“It’s a do over, so to speak,” Bowen said about the planning board having to vote on the same resolution twice.

Prior to the planning board voting on the resolution, 10 people spoke against the wind turbine farm. Some people are against the project because of the potential negative impact to birds and bats. Others cited the wind turbines being too close to their property and they’re concerned about the noise.

Susan Baldwin of Villenova said she was allegedly treated rudely by town officials when she tried to speak against the project, but wasn’t allowed at a town planning meeting. She allegedly received a summons for arrest because she said she would picket the construction site of the wind turbines. She added she had a petition signed by 101 people who are against the wind turbine project.

“The community is going through an extreme amount of anguish,” said Amy Rodgers of Forestville.

No one from Renewable Energy System (RES), the company heading the project, attended the meeting.

Bowen said the town of Villenova can supersede the planning board’s ruling Tuesday with a super majority vote. Last year following the planning board’s disapproval of the wind turbine height change, the members of the Villenova Town Board voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project, which would allow the 23 planned turbines in the town to reach a maximum height of 599 feet. Last year, the town board of Hanover voted unanimously against the height increase, which would keep its six planned wind turbines at 495 feet maximum height.

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