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Town board accepts study findings

Villenova to allow taller turbines

OBSERVER Photo by Jo Ward Pictured are members of the Villenova Town Board.

VILLENOVA — Wind turbines have been a contentious issue in Chautauqua County for a few years now, however none has garnered such attention as the ones involved in the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project.

The main reason are these 37 towers will grow by 100 feet, from 499 to 599, making them the largest turbines in the onshore continental United States, bypassing the current record holder, the Hancock Wind Project in Maine, by 25 feet.

In 2018, Ball Hill submitted an application to amend their approvals for the wind energy facility and the application saw changes — one was to increase the height of the turbines to 599 feet, the second was to place underground the previously above ground lines and the last was to make some adjustments with respect to the locations of a couple of turbines.

In addition, as part of the request in the set backs in the wind facility law, that matter was reviewed extensively by the board in 2018 and culminated of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) to determine that there were no adverse environmental effects related to the project.

The town board’s decision, at that time, was that the amendments to the project actually mitigated impact further. According to board, while it’s true that the taller turbines would increase the project’s visibility by a certain percentage, the removal of the above ground lines would have an overall positive visual impact in respect to the project changes as well as the undergrounding of the lines would avoid or minimize impacts.

That decision was challenged in an Article 78 proceeding, which is used to appeal the decision of a state or local agency to the New York courts. Justice James H. Dillion issued a decision in that there were a couple of impacts that the judge found were not discussed in the record, the board disagreed with that analysis, and has appealed that determination, but none the less, the board in July adopted a resolution determining to complete the SEQR process anew to address those impacts and more that the judge identified in his decision.

That study was completed and a special meeting of the Villenova Town Board was held Wednesday. The board voted 4-0 to unanimously accept the SEQR findings. This means that that, coupled with the unanimous passing of Local LAw No. 2, allows all turbines in the project, which reside in Villenova, to measure upwards of 599 feet, while being placed 599 feet from the nearest public road, 1,000 feet from the nearest off-site residence, 100 feet from state-identified wetlands, and 500 feet from gas wells.

In addition, the board also passed Local Law No. 3, that amended the overlay district.

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