Yates County Planning Board hears about amendments to the Italy Town Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Law.

Yates County Planning Board member Lane Clute, apologized to fellow board members following discussion and subsequent approval of amendments to the Italy Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Law for Wind Energy Incentive Zone. The amendment will go back to the town board for final approval.

Clute said,” This has been an emotional roller coaster.” 
Chairman Jim Ritter told Clute that some questions he asked of Supervisor Margaret Dunn were helpful to the board.  Clute abstained from voting on the referral.

Dunn came to the meeting to explain the reasons behind the proposed law. The controversial issue has been hotly debated in the Town of Italy for nearly seven years.

Dunn told the board that Town Attorney Ed Brockman had suggested the idea  of an incentive zone.  She said the reasoning behind this amendment was to create a specific area for wind farms. 

“We don’t want them all over the town,”  she said, explaining the main reason for considering this plan is to keep the town out of a lawsuit.  “If it comes up in court, hopefully it will stand up that the town has already sacrificed part of the town,” she said.
Italy currently has a lawsuit filed by Ecogen, LLC. citing violation of the equal protection of due process rights. The lawsuit was begun because Italy allegedly indicated it would provide zoning for Empire Wind.  The case is scheduled to be heard in court on Nov. 7.

“When or if New York State passes legislation to take over wind development it will take the decisions out of the hands of town. If we do this right now, we have an overwhelming amount of favor,” said Dunn.

A discussion ensued about the number of residents against wind farms in the town.  Dunn said the numbers for and against have been close.  She said at the recent public hearing out of nearly 75 present, only five or six spoke against  and some of those people were not town residents. 

Clute said according to the newspapers, 70 percent were against windfarms. Dunn countered with, “Do you believe everything you read in the newspapers?” Clute then asked if all the cards and letters were considered.

Dunn said Clute was referring to information from a public hearing in 2006.  Planning Board member Chuck Mitchell reminded that a public hearing is not a vote.  “A board can except or ignore the input,” he said.

Dunn asked for Clute to be recused from discussion.  “He shouldn’t even be talking.  He is a town resident and has land leased to a wind company.”  Clute denied the lease.
Another question Clute asked was how the town would tax the companies.  “Will you tax them at $1 million?“ 
Dunn replied that they would insist on more than the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes).
Clute replied, “You are going to make them pay so high they will walk away.” 

Dunn denied that was the board’s intent.  “I do believe they will have to come up with some realistic figures.  We won’t make it difficult, but we won’t roll over and play dead,” she said.
As the host community, Dunn said it will allow them to negotiate. For instance, she said, the town highway department has been requesting a new salt barn and the board could request that type of thing.

Dave Christiansen commented that windfarms may come to a point where people will just have to accept them.  “You might find out that they are a lucrative thing for a town.  Someday, they may be as common as telephone poles. After awhile you won’t notice them.”
Dunn said, “We’re just a little town and there is no one with money to say you aren’t doing it here.” 

Board member Charles Graves drew the talks to a close by saying, “This law is better than what you had.  It is going to come down the road.  And sooner or later you will have to negotiate again.”
Members voted in approval of the referral with Clute abstaining. Board members Jerry Stape, Pidge Bower and Marilyn Scharf were absent.

• JERUSALEM:  The only other referral reviewed by the board was a local law by the Town of Jerusalem to regulate skateboards, roller blades and in-line skates on public ways, sidewalks and parking lots in the B1 district, which is downtown Branchport. Members approved.