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Tale of Two Townships

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It appears that the current mortality rate of wind energy of 0.15 deaths per TWh is roughly equivalent to that of mining, processing, and burning of coal to generate electricity according to some researchers.

Tale of Two Townships

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Wind Turbines and Cows DO NOT Mix!

What separates the local government of the Town of Malone, NY from that of Cohocton, NY is not a distance of geography, but mindset.  The protracted battle over industrial wind turbines can be easily understood when you examine the vast difference between two laws.  Malone has passed their wind ordinance of 5/24/06.  Read the provisions and appreciate the protections for their community built into the law.  Now inspect the second attempt by the Town of Cohocton to draft their Local Law regulation that virtually turns the township into an industrial landscape.  The obvious question is which town has fulfilled their duty and responsibility to protect their citizens as stated in their respective comprehensive plan?
 
NYS law is clear and precise. Each township is bound by their comprehensive plan as the fundamental and key authority to regulate land use.  In the case of Cohocton, the Town Board is willfully and intentionally working towards circumventing their own comprehensive plan in their outrageous campaign of sanctioning the Cohocton Windmill Power Project.  This project requires that the developer, UPC must compel the town to repudiate the existing comprehensive plan and remove the zoning board and appeal process, in order to build their field of industrial turbine generators. 
 
Let's be perfectly clear.  Without the passage of a "the sky is the limit" windmill law, the project as it is proposed could not be erected.  Who among the proponents of their destructive scheme to deface and extract the last measure of cash from our community natural wind resource has the guts to defend the 500 foot height standard for wind turbines.  Where is the honesty, when the 2.0 MW stand just over 400 feet high?  The current version of the UPC lease agreement indicates that overhead power lines would be built to carry 3.0 MW capacity.  Who among us are so na´ve to think that undisclosed plans are designed to erect even larger 3.0 MW turbines. 
 
Malone has it right, Cohocton is acting like a tool of the old mercantile robber barons with an acute conflict of interest affliction.  Surely UPC understands the lessons of anti-trust!  In this day and age responsible developers must balance the public interest, community safeguards with their profit motivations.  Likewise, local municipalities must resist the seduction of unrealistic promises and false assumptions when a corporate sales pitch promises the moon but the sad facts predict a barren and distressed agriculture use.
 
Industrial use requires industrial taxation.  Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) as a substitute to honest tax responsibility is a political scam of the highest magnitude.  The Cohocton case illustrates a profound disconnect from prudent policy.  Accepting a Pilot scheme is optional.  The Cohocton School District demonstrated sound judgment by declining the UPC Pilot proposal.  But the Town of Cohocton is adamant about allowing UPC the keys to the kingdom for the price of a song.  If the argument was credible that accepting the UPC project is about bringing in needed income for the town, why not levee a fair and appropriate industrial tax assessment on each turbine?  Why is Supervisor Zigenfus willing to settle for so little money when any other industrial enterprise would be charged a rate equal to its use and value?
 
Also by what stretch of sensible logic can a landholder with a UPC lease deem their land to remain agriculture when the use is being changed to industrial?  What about all those government subsidies not to plant crops!  If the land is being rezoned industrial, farming landholders need to face the reality that their special agricultural status may be challenged.  Undoubtedly UPC would have you believe the footprint for each turbine site location is minimal.  But the truth is that the effective distance around each industrial machine extends some 3,000 feet from the center point.  That is the true minimum industrial land area for each turbine, which demands taxation at industrial rates. 
 
With the long ten year NYS mandate to go to 100% reassessment for the entire town just being completed (must be a coincidence in timing), why should a corporate for profit business be given such favor while homeowners are expected to pay on values that will drop like a stone with the coming of wind turbines?  Landholders with UPC leases are left with the worse of both worlds.  They bear the liability and insurance costs of an industrial zone, the court challenges of reassessing their agriculture property once rezoned for industrial use and the loss of use of their land within the boundary areas affected by the turbine wind wash.  Having their cake and eating it too will not be in the cards.  A taxpayer revolt is in the making, the solution is to tax UPC at industrial rates, not at the Pilot scam devise.
 
Why not follow the Malone model and pass a protective windmill local ordinance?  With the Article 78 challenge to the original Cohocton Windmill Local Law slated to be heard in Supreme Court on July 14, 2006, why has Cohocton hired an $290 an hour lawyer to pass a second law that continues to ignore the real public safety issues in the first law?  
 
The Cohocton Planning Board is the lead agency for the UPC project.  To their credit they are reviewing the Malone ordinance and have announced a June 7, 2006 meeting to discuss their findings.  All area residents and taxpayers are urged to attend this meeting.  Now is the time for the public to present sane and rational alternatives to the harmful windmill law #2.  Demand that the process be consistent with the comprehensive plan.  The best way to write a valid local law that the public can and will support is to address and resolve all the defects and flaws within the first two windmill laws.    
 
Therefore the Cohocton Wind Watch organization calls upon the Planning Board to recommend to the Town Board a moratorium on the UPC project while a full complete and all-inclusive drafting of a windmill local law can be achieved.  The tale of both townships does not have to end with one maintaining their regional quality of life while the other sinks into a pit of perpetual litigation.  CWW stands ready to work with the entire community and with both appointed and elected officials.
        
The public is invited to the second public meeting sponsored by CWW on June 8, 2006 7:00 PM at the Cohocton Elementary School, 30 Park Ave., Cohocton, NY.  This question and answer format will present an opportunity to communicate and brainstorm together.  Community solutions are attainable when the scale and scope of a wind turbine project has rational height restrictions, sensible safeguard setback requirements and appropriate site location.  Malone did it, what prevents Cohocton from doing the same?
 
James Hall - June 4, 2006 

A LARGE blade from a ten-tonne wind turbine at Scotland’s most powerful wind farm has snapped off during high winds. The turbine at Crystal Rig wind farm near Dunbar was destroyed when a device to stop it spinning too fast failed.

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