Town of Hamlin wind zoning law invalidated

Back in August the Town of Hamlin was sued by a group of citizens (led by the Hamlin Preservation Group or HPG) after the town passed a local ordinance earlier in the year defining the zoning parameters of large scale wind energy projects.

The Town has now lost the case in the  Supreme Court (New York’s trial court) of Monroe County. The judge found that the town had failed to follow New York’s environmental review law (known as SEQRA) by not taking a “hard look” at the potential environmental impacts of the law or providing a “reasoned elaboration” for its determination that the local law would have no significant impact on the environment (a so-called “negative declaration” or “neg dec”).

The town would not the first to be admonished by the courts for failing to follow SEQRA. It is yet another lesson (or perhaps another example of the same lesson) that the law must be adhered to strictly. Towns simply must go through the necessary SEQRA steps or else their actions can be nullified.

This blogger is grateful to Arthur Giacalone, HPG attorney,  who indicated to us that prior to the enactment of the now invalidated wind law (and now as a consequence of the court decision) the Town of Hamlin zoning code allows one wind turbine per dwelling with a maximum height of 50 feet. Mr. Giacalone avers that an industrial wind developer would require variances from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and a comprehensive SEQRA review in order to proceed with a proposed project.

The situation in Hamlin thus would appear to be unlike that in the Town of Centerville when its law was invalidated last year by the courts. In Centerville, as a result of the nullification, the town had no wind zoning law in place, potentially making local opponents of large scale wind development more vulnerable to a project being sited in the town.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article on the decision, 1/12, here.A 1/13 report from the same paper suggests the town intends to craft a new wind law.

The decision in In re Hamlin Preservation Group et al v. Town Board of the Town of Hamlin (Monroe County Sup. Crt., Jan. 5, 2009) (No. 2008/11217) is here. Thanks to Mr. Giacalone for providing a copy.