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Moratorium on Portland wind turbines may get extended

PORTLAND — It appears the Town Board is leaning toward extending its moratorium on permits and applications for windmills, which is due to expire on Dec. 26.

Daniel Schrantz, town supervisor, said what he and town board members are currently hearing in regard to the proposed turbines in the town is not favorable. In addition, there is no concrete number when it comes to how these projects will affect town revenues.

“Right now there’s very little benefit to the town of Portland with these smaller projects that I see,” he said after the public portion of the meeting last week.

EWT has proposed at least 10 wind turbines of about 325 feet high on properties that will generate up to 10 MW of power. Much of that generation, according to proponents and the company, will stay local unlike the Arkwright project that exports the power to Connecticut.

About 20 people were in attendance for the meeting Oct. 9 — much less than the 75 present in September. Most residents spoke in favor of taking more time before ending the moratorium.

“Our current local law does not adequately address the issue of safe setbacks … health impacts, decommissioning, taxpayer indemnity, assessing values and so on,” noted resident Dale Carlson.

County Legislator Mark Odell discussed the recent Chautauqua County Board of Health meeting on wind turbines. It recommended three actions: a moratorium, an implementation of local laws by the towns and regulating the wind turbine through the county sanitary code.

Resident Doug Walter also asked for an extension of the moratorium. “There’s no rush on this. Take your time. I think our county and our residents health is more important,” he said. “I’m not anti-solar or wind. I just want the proper setbacks away from my house and other residents houses. Twelve hundred feet is unacceptable. We need at least a half-mile to a mile.”

Kevin Powell, a supporter of bringing wind energy to the town, said the town has a chance to grow revenues with the addition of green-energy projects. “Our town could generate with these projects up over $100,000 a year of tax base,” he said.

Powell also noted that time is of the essence. Currently there is a limited number of “feeder lines” located in the town to get into the grid. If Portland officials wait too long to take advantage of this through these energy alternatives, it may lose out on any potential revenue in the future.

Toward the end of the discussion, Odell said he would attempt to line up a meeting between county Industrial Development Agency officials and Town Board members to discuss the payment in lieu of taxes issue and an opt-out possibility with regard to the proposed project.

At the November meeting, after meeting with IDA officials, the board hopes to make a decision on whether to extend the moratorium.

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