Cohocton Wind Watch: Objections heard on Barre towers
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Friday, August 08, 2008

Objections heard on Barre towers

BARRE — After a public hearing on a proposed local wind energy facilities law Wednesday, the town board put off voting on its adoption.

Trustees will discuss the issue at a special work session at a date to be announced, Supervisor Mark Chamberlain said.

The board passed the first draft of the law in June 2007 without Orleans County Planning Board approval, which was required by law, Senior Planner Jim Bensley has said.

Since then, the board has written a new version establishing wind energy tower restrictions for the general health, welfare and safety of its residents, Chamberlain said. The county planning board gave it conditional approval upon submission of a state environmental quality review assessment.

“It started out as four sentences. It is now 24 pages,” Chamberlain said. “It talks about many aspects of wind energy conversion.”

The proposed law requires that any wind project receive overlay zone approval first. Setback distance from any existing residential or commercial building must be no less than 1,000 feet. Setback distance from any and all public roadways or above ground power lines must be no less than 1.5 times the conversion unit’s tip height, the document states. Total tip height for each unit is not to exceed 500 feet.

Noise standards require that the level not exceed 45 decibels measured at a distance 1,000 feet from the base of the unit.

During the public hearing, Barre resident Andrea Rebeck, a local preservation architect, presented a five-page statement and packet of information to the board. She was the only person to speak at last year’s hearing, when she submitted a 70-page packet of objections.

Rebeck said the new proposed law is “vastly improved (from) last year and I thank you very much for going to the trouble to do that.”

Still, Rebeck expressed concern for the proposed setback requirements, citing impact studies conducted in France and Germany that require setbacks of 1 mile.

She also thinks the town does not have the wind capacity to sustain a tower. Most wind turbines require a class four wind capacity, she said, while a local wind maps shows Barre averages a class three.

John Goslau and David Heminway, both Gaines residents who served on the wind advisory committee there, joined Rebeck in speaking out against wind turbines. Though they do not own property in Barre, they are concerned as joint residents of Orleans County, they said.

Goslau addressed some of the landowners present, telling them he has “nothing against people looking to make some money,” but that more efficient, less obstructive alternatives to the nation’s energy crisis are “on the horizon.”

“You will be living with these things for 10 or 20 years,” he said. “If you start bringing these things in the area, it will be a shame. ... For Western New York, it’s the worst thing you can do.”

Albion Town Supervisor Judy Koehler spoke on the intensive wind energy research project conducted by the Albion Town Board. Eighty-four percent of voters opposed wind tower construction in the Town of Albion, she said.

“If you have them, we’re going to see them,” she said. “Our population is not happy about that at all.”

Koehler asked people to remember what State and Park streets used to look like before tax incentives encouraged developers to turn “the former glorious” homes there into multiple-family dwellings. Once the incentives stopped, she said, they fell into “grave disrepair.”

Precautions should be taken for the towers’ decommissioning once they are erected, she said.

“Tax credits are for big business,” Koehler said. “We’re not big business out here, we’re small working people.”

Carmella Morton, a long-time resident of Barre, echoed Rebeck’s objection.

“From what I’ve heard, we don’t have the wind power,” she said.

The town board will discuss any possible changes in the proposal at a future work session meeting, Chamberlain said. A second public hearing is required if any changes are made.

The Spanish company Iberdrola, one of the five biggest electricity companies in the world, has been collecting wind data in Barre for nearly two years. The project was started by the company CPV before it changed hands in late 2007. Iberdrola has yet to file an application for a turbine project in Barre.

In neighboring Gaines and Albion, the wind development company Airtricity, now owned by E.ON, held a meeting last fall at which representatives verbally proposing construction of 55 to 80 420-foot wind towers between the Erie Canal and Route 104 in Gaines and between routes 31 and 31A in Albion. Meteorological towers have been collecting data there, too.

In May, the Gaines Town Board passed a wind energy facilities law declaring wind towers are not in the best interest of the residents.

Wind energy regulatory laws have also been established in the towns of Shelby, Yates and Ridgeway, and are under review in the Towns of Clarendon, Carlton and Kendall.

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