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Turbine ordinance here to stay

Rick Bonomo said he has spent the past quarter-century renovating an old farmhouse in Brothersvalley Township.

Now, the Somerset dentist is upset at the prospect of giant wind turbines on the horizon.

But despite mounting opposition to a series of proposed wind farms on the Allegheny Ridge, Somerset County commissioners said Tuesday they will not revisit a controversial ordinance regulating the turbines. Objections have ranged from noise to effects on property values.

“Putting these up in our county is industrialization of our agricultural neighborhood,” Bonomo told the commissioners. He said the wind farms are being developed by absentee property owners, absentee construction companies and absentee operators.

“It effectively takes that land away from me.”

Bonomo was joined at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting by five other residents opposed to the rapid growth of wind energy ““ particularly plans by Lookout Windpower of Leawood, Kan., to erect 18 turbines in Brothersvalley and Northampton townships.

In 2004, county commissioners passed a precedent-setting ordinance that regulates the height of the turbines and how close they can be to neighboring properties, and imposes bonds guaranteeing their removal when decommissioned.

Commissioners said they will not change the ordinance, which they say balances the rights of property owners who are opposed to windmills with those who want to lease their land to turbine developers.

Officials laid the blame on state and federal tax incentives for the wind industry. “If you want to stop them, take away the federal subsidies,” Commissioner Brad Cober said.

By Kirk Swauger
The Tribune-Democrat