By Chris Hoffman
[Madison, NY – June 28, 2012] At a Special Meeting of the Madison Town Council, with about 75 members of the public in attendance, Councilmen Bradley Dixon, James Lundrigan, and Gregory Reuter, and Town Supervisor Ron Bono voted unanimously to adopt a resolution enacting Local Law #2 of 2012, Town of Madison Moratorium on Wind Power Facilities Law. Councilmember Patricia Bikowsky had recused herself from voting earlier in the year and was not present at this meeting.
It was a hard-won vote for hundreds of residents who would have been affected by the installation of a 36-turbine industrial wind farm in the southern part of the Town of Madison along the northeastern border of the Village of Hamilton.
On December 16, 2011, applicant Rolling Upland Hills Wind Farm, a subsidiary of EDP Renewables, submitted an application to the Town of Madison for a special use permit pursuant to the Town’s “Windpower Facility Special Use Permit Regulations.” It wasn’t until February of 2012 that local residents learned about the project and immediately began to organize into what eventually became the grassroots citizens group Madison Matters.
Five months later, after attending every Planning Board and Town Council meeting in the interim, after two public hearings – one on the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement filed by the developer and one on the proposed moratorium law submitted on May 10 to the Town Council – and after extensive efforts to educate themselves and town officials about industrial wind farms, those most in danger of losing homes and environment to industrial development got what they wanted: a year’s time for “Town officials to review, clarify, amend and update the Town’s Special Permit Regulations for windmills” as stated in the newly adopted Local Law #2.
The new Local Law, submitted by Town Attorney William Gettman at the June 21 workshop at which the Council members reviewed comments from the public hearing on June 11, omitted some of the language in the original proposed moratorium law submitted for review, including “time [for Town officials] to prepare and adopt a Land Use Plan that creates an appropriate balance among the competing interests inherent in industrial, commercial, agricultural, and residential land use” and “time … to adopt a Comprehensive Plan for the Town.”
After the unanimous vote adopting the moratorium law, Pam Fuller, speaking on behalf of Madison Matters, said, “We would like to thank Supervisor Bono and Town Council members for their support of the moratorium law. Based on recent revisions, we will focus our efforts and work in good faith with our Town’s elected and appointed officials to amend and update the current Wind Power Facility Special Permit Regulations for the Town of Madison. Additionally, we remain committed to our mission and the betterment of our entire community and look forward to working with you on the next steps in this process, that of preparing and adopting a Land Use Plan and adopting a Comprehensive Plan for the Town.”
The Town Council must now file a certified copy of Local Law #2 of 2012 with the Secretary of State within 20 days, as required by section 27 of the Municipal Home Rule Law. The Town Council has until July 18 to do this. Municipal Home Rule Law, Section 27, also provides that a local law shall not become effective before it is filed in the office of the Secretary of State.
Additionally, the Planning Board is now charged with appointing a Wind Power Committee, which will be responsible for working with the Planning Board to craft more comprehensive and protective regulations for the citing of wind turbines within the Town of Madison, and which will also include two alternate members who would be available should anyone on the Committee have to resign. Once new regulations are drafted, the Planning Board is responsible for submitting them to the Town Council, which has the authority to adopt them for future use. Many residents have offered to share the information and knowledge gained from their research in this process, and hope to realize new regulations that equitably protect everyone’s interests.