September 13, 2006

Residents voice concern over windmills

By Jennifer Garlesky, Daily American Correspondent

Supervisors heard concerns from Ogle Township residents and property owners regarding the regulation of wind turbines in the township Tuesday night.

Twenty area residents from Ogle and Shade Township attended the supervisors meeting to express their concerns about property rights, noise levels, and the protection of the environment from a proposed wind energy development by Gamesa Energy USA, a subsidiary of Gamesa Corp., a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer.

Brian Lammers, Gamesa Energy’s Atlantic Region development director, confirmed that the company is proposing to erect 30 wind turbines in parts of Ogle and Shade Township’s at the last township supervisors meeting on Aug. 3. He also said that he was unsure if the project will lead to multiple phases.

For the past several months, the board has been collecting information on the installation, maintenance and zoning of windmills.

Windber resident and “Save the Mountain” member Joseph J. Cominsky presented board members with a petition containing more than 90 signatures of Ogle and Shade township residents who oppose the proposed wind energy development within the two townships.

He requested the supervisors address the property rights issue by adopting a proposed wind turbine ordinance that would require a 2,500 foot setback from a property line.

“There has to be property setbacks – that’s why we are here tonight,” he said.

Cominsky said that by requiring a setback five times the turbine height from the nearest property line of a non-participating landowner will “prevent Gamesa and other windmill companies from railroading into this state.”

“We are not anti-wind, we just want some regulations,” Shade township resident and Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society founder Thomas Dick said.

Dick’s biggest concern about the installation of wind turbines is the negative effect it will have on the area’s wildlife.

The Allegheny Mountain range is a migratory corridor for owls, hawks and particular golden eagles, said Dick.

“If the wind turbines are erected there will be a 20 percent mortality rate of the birds.”

He added that development will also impact other local wildlife such as deer and turkey and will cause habitat fragmentation.

“The wildlife has no voice in this at all,” he said.

Ogle Township resident Kim Moore presented the supervisors with information regarding wind turbine syndrome, which is an effect of the installation of industrial wind turbines.

Moore stated that the symptoms possible risk factors include sleep problems, headaches, dizziness, depression, lost in concentration and anxiety.

“We are going to do something. We have to do something,” said supervisor’s Chairman Harvey Weyandt Jr. “As soon as we get the information we can defend, an ordinance will be established.”

“When you pass an ordinance prohibiting the use of property rights it will be challenged,” said John Gibson, township solicitor.

“Every time we get information and expert testimony that helps us,” said Weyandt.

Since Ogle Township is without an ordinance regulating the installation and maintenance of windmills, the regulation is set forth in Somerset County’s ordinance, which will be applied.

The county’s ordinance regulates how close the structures can be built to occupied residences and businesses without a waiver and forces companies to set aside funds to dismantle the towers once they have outlived their usefulness.

The board took no action on the issue and is continuing to gather more information.

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