Back to Gary A. Abraham, Esq.
updated 3/16/11

Horizon in Machias, Yorkshire and Ashford

Horizon Wind Energy, which operates New York's largest wind farm, the Maple Ridge Wind Farm, has purchased leases from dozens of property owners in the adjacent towns of Machias, Yorkshire and Ashford, but most local officials don't want a wind farm.

On August 9, 2010, Ashford adopted a local law requiring wind turbines to emit no more than 50 decibels at the closest "non-participating" property boundary, without regard to distance.  A "participating residence" is defined as a residence included within a parcel or lot whose owner has signed an agreement with Horizon to allow higher noise levels. Thus, if a neighbor has signed a lease allowing Horizon to site a wind turbine on his land, if there are no participating residences adjacent to him Horizon will need to purchase noise waivers from all properties within the zone where 50 dBA would result from turbine noise. Although its leases include noise waivers, this requires Horizon to purchase many more noise waivers.

On October 18, 2010 Machias adopted a local law limiting noise from wind turbines to 3 decibels above the existing background sound level, which has been measured at about 25 dBA in locations near Horizon leases. The limit on increased sound is excused for properties where Horizon has purchased a noise waiver and recorded the waiver with the county clerk. This requires Horizon to purchase many more noise waivers.

On March 13, 2011 Yorkshire denied Horizon a renewal of its variance for a met tower, requiring Horizon to remove the tower. This effectively ends Horizon's involvement in Yorkshire.

The combined effect of the actions of these three towns is to make the Horizon project proposal very difficult if not impossible.

A local group of property owners (some who live out the area) has formed to boost the Horizon wind farm project in the three towns, and disseminate industry-sponsored information designed to diminish the potential impacts of a wind farm on local residents, and exaggerate local benefits. See S.M.A.R.T.'s website.

Noise impacts are the limiting factor in siting and regulating a wind farm. Wind turbine noise is distinctively annoying and will likely affect the health of some people exposed to chronic immissions of low levels of impulsive or modulating noise that contains a substantial low frequency component, which makes the noise carry long distances. On August 28, 2009, a letter summarizing the potential for such impacts was sent to Machias.

Wind energy developers want towns to adopt noise limits of 50 dBA, but this level of noise will increase existing sound levels by more than 20 dBA, an increase NYSDEC classifies as "very noticeable to intolerable" -- see CCCC's Backgrounder and wind turbine noise web pages. Promoting wind energy facilities without understanding the noise problem has resulted in a significant number of community complaints once wind farms are up and operating, and that has decreased property values, made it difficult to sell residential property near a wind farm, and accordingly over time decreases the host town's tax base, threatening to negate the direct payments to the town by the wind developer.

Nevertheless, the Cattaraugus County IDA has adopted a policy to finance wind farms anywhere in the County. The IDA policy splits $8,000 per MW offered by wind developers into $5,000 for a PILOT plan ("payment in lieu of taxes") IDA would provide to each taxing jurisdiction (school district, county and host town) and up to $3,500 that would be provided to the host town under a host benefit agreement between the town and the developer. This has the effect of substantially reducing proceeds to school districts (which would ordinarily receive the most because its property tax exceeds county and town taxes) and substantially inflating proceeds to towns (because they get up to $3.5K/MW plus their portion of the PILOT). CCCC commented to IDA when the policy was proposed that it should take a hard look at the effect of wind farms on the environment before deciding to finance such projects, but IDA rejected the comment.

Local laws for siting wind farms in Machias, Yorkshire and Ashford

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