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Cape Vincent mulls new rules governing wind development

Joanna Richards

The town of Cape Vincent has been torn over the prospect of a wind farm for years. A local committee has just completed a proposed new zoning law. Local officials hope that those rules – and not the state's new Article X process – will govern future wind development in the town.

Zoning of wind farms came up in Cape Vincent years ago when two separate wind farm projects were proposed in the town. The two projects merged into one last winter, under ownership of BP.

Soon after, Cape Vincent leaders issued a moratorium on wind development, until they adopt a new zoning law regulating wind farms.

The process of creating that new law is now in full swing, with a proposal on the table from the town's Zoning Law Rewrite Committee.

Committee chairman Bob Brown said the proposal aims to preserve the rural character of Cape Vincent.

"Cape Vincent is a quiet community," said Brown. "At night, you can literally hear yourself think. So we based our noise regulations on the quietness of the community."

The committee also wants to regulate lighting and ensure a safe distance from structures, schools and population centers. And Brown said the group considered the preservation of property values as it developed setback requirements.

"We said we are going to do a two-mile setback from the waterfront, which would cover the majority of the homes, and the majority of the property value, and use that as a way to address property value and potential loss of property value," he said.

Brown said the committee’s guiding principles were health, safety and the welfare of the community. He says it did not have a predisposition for or against wind farms.

But Brown said they did have one idea in mind from the start – preserving local control.

"Our goal was to write an addendum to the zoning law that the Article X board would not find unreasonable. We can justify each one of the requirements that we put in based on health, safety, science and technology," he said.

Brown was referring to a new state law that could take away local control over the review process for wind farms and give that power to the state.

Cyril Cullen is another member of the Cape Vincent Zoning Law Rewrite Committee. He said the prospect of state review is frustrating.

"We know what we want, we've drafted our laws accordingly, and now all of a sudden, part of that is being taken away," Cullen said. "Whether you're pro-wind, anti-wind, no matter what, the subject of home rule is a sore subject with many people. They just are very uncomfortable with the state taking away something that was granted many years ago."

The rewrite committee held a public forum last month. It’s currently making adjustments to the zoning law based on community feedback. A formal public hearing is set for July 21.