Cohocton Wind Watch: Italy rejects wind turbines
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, October 07, 2009

Italy rejects wind turbines

Italy, N.Y. — . The Town Board Monday unanimously rejected a proposed wind-turbine project in the town, determining the gigantic power-generating machines would have a negative effect on the environment. The board also agreed it wants to impose a six-month moratorium on wind turbines, though that decision requires a public hearing and final board vote.

“Most people did not want wind turbines,” Town Supervisor Margaret Dunn said Tuesday.

Last month, hundreds of residents in this Yates County town of 1,000, bordering Naples, turned out largely to voice their opposition to turbines in an emotionally charged gathering. Most of the 116 residents who spoke at the meeting were against the machines, said Dunn.

When the board convened Monday, it determined the 17 proposed turbines would have a negative impact due to noise, light flicker and positioning on steep slopes. Dunn said the board was particularly disturbed because the original proposal stated the turbines would not be sited on slopes exceeding 15 percent, yet the environmental study showed some were slated to be built on such slopes.

Resident Vince Johnson, who lives on Italy Hill Turnpike near a targeted turbine site, said he was worried about storm-water runoff from turbines — as well as noise and possible effect on spring-fed wells.

Beth O’Brien is a spokeswoman for Pattern Energy Group, a partner with West Seneca, N.Y.-based Ecogen LLC, which is planning the turbine project. On Tuesday, she said, “We are extremely disappointed in the result of the vote.”

“We really want to build a wind project in this area and bring the economic development benefits to the community.”

Originally, the companies said their plans to put up a total of 33 turbines across Italy and neighboring Prattsburgh, in Steuben County, depended on getting a permit from Italy.

“We are not pulling the plug just yet,” O’Brien said. “We are weighing our options.” She didn’t elaborate on what those options might be.

O’Brien said the wind companies own property in the town and have also signed leases with property owners who agreed to allow turbines on their property. The property owners will be paid according to the lease agreements for the specified time periods, whether or not the turbines get built.

Italy’s decision to at least halt the turbine project temporarily was good news for Naples town officials, who this summer asked the state’s Public Service Commission to stop development of turbines that would be built close to the town line.

The Naples Town Board’s focus has centered on five turbines that Ecogen’s original plans sited on Knapp Hill in Prattsburgh. One would be within 250 feet of the Naples town line, Town Supervisor Frank Duserick said at a recent meeting. It would also be less than 500 feet from a Naples landowner’s property line.

Wind turbines are already towering over the landscape to the south of Naples. Fifty turbines — with most clustered on Pine and Lent hills in Cohocton — installed by another wind energy company, First Wind, became operational early this year. The company’s plans to erect more than 40 additional turbines for a project in Prattsburgh are currently on hold due to financing issues.

Naples Supervisor Duserick maintains the Town Board is not against wind power, but wants to be sure turbines in neighboring towns are placed appropriately. Concerns range from health and safety to the rights of Naples property owners, who live near the town line.

Naples Town Board member Roger Riesenberger said Tuesday he was glad to hear of Italy’s decision. “We feel they are stepping back and looking at the situation to protect people,” he said. “We are glad for this.”

As for Italy, Johnson said the turbine issue has taken its toll on the community. There has been a “social cost,” he said. “Friendships were lost.”

Johnson, a former member of the town’s planning and zoning boards, said he hopes the town uses a moratorium to review and update its laws for development — to help manage wind turbine projects as well as other proposals. And he hopes the community comes back together during that process.

“I hope we can all figure out a way to get on same side of the table,” added Johnson.

“We are strongest together... not fighting one another.”

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