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Cape Vincent man says town can’t stop him from erecting personal wind turbine

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CAPE VINCENT — The town wants to stop Robert A. Shimp from erecting a 50-foot personal wind turbine next to his 31699 County Route 6 home because it is “in the process” of enacting a moratorium on wind energy development.

But it has already approved the work.

“I’ve already got permits to put it up,” Mr. Shimp said. “I’ve met all the requirements. And now I’m told no activities are to take place? It’s wrong. I don’t have a lot, and I’ve just spent $25,000 to get my house off the grid.”

He added that installation would cost him an additional $8,000 to $10,000.

The Town Council proposed a seven-month moratorium at its January monthly board meeting but is yet to vote on the issue.

Mr. Shimp, owner of Shimp Paving, Landscaping & Excavating, Cape Vincent, said he received a letter — dated Jan. 30 — from town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey Tuesday telling him that he cannot install the turbine because the town government is about to pass a wind moratorium.

Supervisor Hirschey did not return several calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Next week, at a special meeting on Feb. 7, the town plans to pass a moratorium that would put a halt to all wind energy development in Cape Vincent while the town puts together a new wind law. The town government also is in the process of reviewing and revising its outdated zoning law and comprehensive plan.

Mr. Shimp said he is “sick and tired” of the town picking on hard working, “small guys of society” like himself and will hire a lawyer and take legal action to protect his investments if he has to.

A lawyer he consulted Tuesday afternoon told Mr. Shimp that the town board cannot simply order him to halt the installation of his turbine.

Mr. Shimp said he was initially granted a permit to install a personal wind turbine three years ago and got his second permit from former Cape Vincent Zoning Officer Alan N. Wood about a month and a half ago.

“I’m one of the major reasons they got rid of Alan Wood,” Mr. Shimp said.

The town replaced Mr. Wood, the town’s former zoning officer, last month after receiving verbal complaints from residents, a subject the town supervisor has declined to discuss.

“I think it’s because I issued permits for personal wind towers,” Mr. Wood said at the time. “But if there are no laws against them, I have to issue the permits.”

Mr. Wood said Tuesday that the town board pushed him out because he refused to become its puppet and instead did his job — which was to grant or deny permits based on the law, not an individual’s opinion.

Also, Mr. Wood said that Zoning Board of Appeals meeting minutes from July 6, 2009, show that the board had classified personal wind turbines as accessory structures and that Mr. Shimp does not need to submit a site plan to the town Planning Board for his turbine nor worry about the moratorium because he already has a permit.

“Once the ZBA calls it an accessory-use structure, all you need is a permit, you don’t need a site plan,” Mr. Wood said. “It doesn’t matter if the moratorium is passed tomorrow. It would be a grandfathered thing.”

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