Cohocton Wind Watch: Increased setbacks recommended for Enfield wind law
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Increased setbacks recommended for Enfield wind law

The setbacks in the proposed Enfield wind law are not large enough, according to a letter from the Tompkins County Planning Department to Town Supervisor Frank Podufalski, but following that advice could kill the wind farm proposal for a site near Connecticut Hill.

The planning department recommends increased setbacks between property lines and the wind towers from 1.1 times the blade radius to 1.5 times the height of the tower. This would increase the setback from property lines from about 100 feet to roughly 600 feet. The height of the turbines is approximately 400 feet.

The size of setbacks has become the focal point of the proposed local law, and if the standards are increased to comply with the county recommendations, wind farm developer John Rancich's proposed wind farm would likely die. The county recommendations contain setbacks that are similar to a local law passed at the end of 2007 that was seen by some wind proponents as a desperate push by an outgoing town board resistant to the wind farm project.

Increased setbacks would kill Rancich's project because long, narrow plots in the vicinity would allow landowners to keep neighbors from having a tower on their own property, Rancich said last year. County Planning Director Ed Marx said the recommendations were solely based on wind laws in other communities and that the department did not consider the specific wind farm proposal.

“We feel like community support for alternative energy will be enhanced if we make sure adjacent property owners are properly protected as much as possible from the adverse impacts. I guess when you're developing a law it shouldn't be developed for a single project. It should be developed for the community and adjacent communities.”

The county recommendations also ask Enfield to increase setbacks from dwellings from 1.1 times the height of the tower to two times the height of the tower.

But Enfield does not have to comply with the county recommendations. If the Enfield Town Board does not adopt the recommendations, it will need a supermajority, which means four votes on the five-member board, to pass the proposal into law.

Marx based the county recommendations on examples of laws compiled by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which vary considerably.

Town attorney Guy Krogh defended the proposed law.

“On setbacks, (NYSERDA) give(s) this ridiculous range of standards from barely anything to two times tower height, and somehow the county says ‘Well 1.1 (times the height of the tower) is at the low end. We think 1.5 (times the height of the tower),' ” Krogh said.

Krogh added that he doesn't see the relationship between community and intercommunity impacts and larger setbacks.

Marx said with greater setbacks there will likely be greater community support for alternative energy projects.

Residents living near the Rancich site have had concerns since wind energy was proposed.

Bruce Varner, a Connecticut Hill resident, wrote Podufalski requesting setbacks larger than proposed by county planning. However, he thinks a compromise could be found by the town board adhering to the county recommendations.

“If (the Enfield board) would alter the setbacks to what (county planning is) specifying and the sound levels to what they're specifying, I would think that's something workable. I would want them farther away,” Varner said

Varner also suggested moving the project across the street where he said a smaller but safer wind farm could be built. Rancich has said that his testing has only been done on the proposed site and that a smaller wind farm would not make the project financially viable.

At a public hearing last week, most attendees voiced strong support for the wind law with setbacks at 1.1 times the height of the tower.

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