HAMMOND - If Hammond adopts a wind law that requires Iberdrola Renewables Inc. to compensate property owners who see drops in their land values, the company says it will scrap plans to build a proposed wind farm.
"They've basically said if we pass this agreement, that they will pick up their tinker toys and leave the sandbox," said Richard K. Champany, the wind committee member responsible for the proposal. Mr. Champany, a real estate attorney with offices in Alexandria Bay and Pulaski, said he didn't anticipate this reaction from Iberdrola.
"It's very infuriating," he said, holding up the letter from Iberdrola. "I've attempted to mediate and make everyone happy. This is a very fair proposal. I didn't expect this kind of reaction."
"It also says they don't have any experience with property values dropping," said Michele W. McQueer, committee tri-chair, "and that they would like to discuss the proposal with us."
"I could care less what Iberdrola feels about the agreement," said Ronald R. Papke, tri-chair of the committee appointed by the Hammond town board to draft a law regulating wind turbines. "If there aren't any negative effects to property values, then they are no worse for wear if this agreement is included. We're here to protect the citizens of Hammond."
According to Mr. Champany, his proposal calls for assurances from Iberdrola that if a property owner cannot get the appraised value of his/her home at sale because of the presence of wind turbines, then Iberdrola would be required to make up the difference.
"This agreement must be entered into within 90 days of the conclusion of the permitting process, and is good only for those properties falling within a two-mile range of a windmill," he said. Additionally, according to Mr. Champany, the proposal calls for a one-time only "buyout clause," which would give a property owner who was completely opposed to living near a turbine an opportunity to have Iberdrola buy their property outright.
For the purpose of the agreement, Mr. Champany said, a qualified professional appraiser, licensed in New York and not related to the property owner or with a relationship with Iberdrola, must conduct the appraisal. Comparable properties would come from the neighboring town of Alexandria, "where there are no wind farms due to the proximity of the Maxon Air Field."
If both parties cannot agree upon the asking price of the property, Mr. Champany said, an appraiser with MAI certification must be selected by Iberdrola. He defined MAI certification as "the highest level of professionalism."
According to Mr. Champany and the wind committee, the proposal was just that - a work in progress.
"These were my thoughts," he said, "but I'm open to committee suggestion, as well as ideas from community members. I mean, we're here to serve the best interests of this community, and to work together, right?"
The remainder of Tuesday's meeting, chaired by Mrs. McQueer, was dedicated to ranking the quality of the committee's collected documentation on the issues surrounding industrial wind energy development.
"We're going to go through all of the documentation and rank them on a scale of one to three, with a one being the lowest level, and a three being the highest," Mrs. McQueer said, revealing a pyramid-visual labeled "Hierarchy of Evidence."
Mr. Papke objected, questioning the committee's ability to rank its sources, as well as the usefullness of such an undertaking.
"We've all done a lot of research. I have about 10 reams of material I've collected during my own. This ranking of documentation is not going to be the sole basis by which we make our recommendations. A lot of it is subjective," he said.
Dr. Stephen D. Sarfaty agreed with Mrs. McQueer that he felt the exercise would be valuable to the committee's end result.
"We said we would consider any information from any source. If we rank them, it will undoubtedly help the committee with the charge we have been given," he said.
"A systematic approach is necessary, otherwise, it's an opinion-fest. Let's take a less controversial area, go through the exercise, and see where it brings us."
Frederick A. Proven pointed out that the committee is "running out of time."
Mr. Papke lamented on the volume of resources and stated, "There's an awful lot here, I would be hard pressed to say these are the facts."
The committee decided to rank their documentation on environmental issues and, after about an hour of labeling the sources as a 1, 2, or 3, Mr. Champany asked, "Why are we doing this?"
"Because we agreed to," Mrs. McQueer said.
The committee will meet again on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Village Community Center.