MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Legislature doesn’t want to see any more tax breaks given to large-scale wind energy projects in the county.
During last night’s voting session, the legislature unanimously approved, by a vote of 17 to 0, a resolution requesting that the county Industrial Development Agency not approve further tax agreements for wind energy projects that produce more than 5 megawatts of power.
County Executive George Borrello, who’s made it no secret that he is opposed to wind farming and who had served on the IDA while a member of the county legislature, said he’s glad to see the resolution pass because he feels its a major mistake that communities allow major wind projects to move forward.
“We are still suffering in Western New York and in Chautauqua County from the mistakes that were made from the urban renewal projects of the 60s and 70s and we are now spending billions of dollars and dedicating huge resources to trying to reverse what the urban renewal projects did in the name of the greater good,” Borrello said. “We found out that they were probably one of the biggest [economic development] mistakes of the 20th century and I believe these wind turbines are the same thing. These are the urban renewal mistake of the 21st century. We were being told this is for the greater good and ultimately we are going to have to deal with the hopefully not irreparable damage that they are causing to our landscape, the environment, to property values, and to human health.”
Borrello adds that the IDA is technically an entity of the state and separate from the county, which is why the resolution was only a recommendation and not actual policy.
“One thing we have to remember is that the IDA is not a county entity. It is a separate entity – even though it is the ‘Chautauqua County’ IDA, it is technically a state agency. We have the power to appoint people to the board and we appoint the director, but we do not have the ability to mandate policy,” Borrello said, adding, “That being said, this body is certainly sending this recommendation and I fully expect the IDA board to follow that recommendation. Certainly because this legislature appoints the board, I would imagine they would respect the opinion of our county legislature, especially sending the unanimous message that we do not want to offer PILOT agreements to any project over 5 MW.”
At the end of the meeting, several residents from the Town of Arkwright spoke to the legislature thanking them for passing the recommendation, but also voiced their concern and frustration with the current wind farm that is being constructed in that area. According to several residents, the project is resulting in the deterioration of several rural roadways, to the point that they’ve become impassable for most vehicles.
The project – known as Cassadaga Wind LLC – is located in the towns of Arkwright, Cherry Creek, Stockton, and Charlotte and received major tax breaks from the IDA earlier this year. Once built, the wind farm will include as many as 58 wind turbines, with a maximum height of 500 feet and which would have a maximum generating capacity of 126 megawatts (MW).
Under terms of the PILOT plan approved by the county IDA in January, Cassadaga Wind LLC would not have to pay any property taxes, but would make an annual payment of $4,000 for each megawatt produced, on average, over the course of any tax year. If full capacity was achieved, the first year PILOT payment would be $504,000 and would be split up between the affected taxing jurisdictions. An annual escalator was also included.