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Zoners put off decision on Windhorse proposal

After another five-hour meeting dedicated to Windhorse Power LLC’s wind-turbine proposal, the Beekmantown Zoning Board of Appeals tabled its decision.

Nearly every meeting with the Windhorse proposal on the agenda has turned out substantial response from both the developers and residents of the Rand Hill Road area, which is the main site of the project.

The Clinton County Planning Board recently disapproved Windhorse’s project by a 6-1 vote, saying, among other issues, that more information was needed. That sent the issue back to the Beekmantown Zoning Board.

Windhorse wasn’t happy with the Planning Board’s decision, their attorney, Michael Sternhouse, said at the recent Zoning Board meeting.

“We find no reason for the board to send the applicant back to the Clinton County Planning Board and decide on (the proposal) tonight,” he said.

In a letter to Zoning Board, the county planners said they were concerned with the impact the project could have on the County Airport once it becomes Plattsburgh International Airport at the former Air Base.

“It would be very speculative for this board to ask the applicant to speculate on a future use,” Sternhouse said.

Project partners John Warshow and Per White-Hansen further explained their proposal.

“New York state has enacted a renewable-energy portfolio,” Warshow said. Their Vermont-based company has just been certified to be part of that portfolio.

Windhorse hopes to put in 10 to 13 turbines over 800 acres.

“However, the land to be used is less than that,” Warshow said.

An access road and bases would be built for these turbines, which will reach 462 feet.

In an attempt to appease concerns of visibility, Windhorse renewed their standing offer of shortening their towers from 100 meters to 80 meters.

“There will be less noise and impact than any other projects proposed,” Warshow said.

The wind facility will take four to six months of construction, if passed, and generate 20 megawatts of electricity annually, the equivalent of 3 million gallons of gasoline, Warshow said.

Windhorse has modified its plans to move some turbines north and east of their proposed positions to protect the view of the residents.

“Some people, from some locations, will see some part of a few blades,” Warshow told the Zoning Board. “Will it be significant? We don’t think so.”

All the power generated will run through underground lines to a new above-ground service site and be fed into the New York State Electric & Gas grid, Warshow said.

They also tried to ease concerns about noise and property-value concerns.

With renewable energy being encouraged around the country, Windhorse offers an alternative, the developers said.

“Change is the nature of life,” Warshow said softly. “The law has a purpose. It is to guide the change. We believe that we have followed those laws.”

Following the Windhorse presentation, Zoning Board Chairwoman Janice Machut Conrad opened the meeting to public comments.

All but two people pressed for rejection of the Windhorse proposal.

“The issue is not wind power, which I favor,” said Lee Clark, a Rand Hill Road resident. “It is about town law, which I favor.”

Judith Noiseux also said she is not opposed to wind power, but “my husband, Ted Klaudt, and I object to the placement of the project in a residentially zoned area.”

Windhorse has suggested that it is an “essential service” under that zoning law and can be allowed in the residentially zoned area of town.

“I already have electricity,” said Robert Manor of the General Leroy Manor Road. “This is a commercial venture.”

Like many towns, Beekmantown did not have wind-turbine regulations in the Zoning Law before a project was brought forward.

“The town board of Beekmantown has surely let you down,” said Vinnie Samolis.

“They are not windmills,” he said, referring to the mental pictures of colonial-type windmills slowly turning on the horizon. “They are turbines.”

The West Beekmantown Association was there, represented by a lawyer they’ve hired, as a well as environmentalist Gary Duprey, who discussed the State Environmental Quality Review application and suggested the Zoning Board table its decision and try to gather as much information as possible.

Rudy Pribis of Rand Hill Road spoke in favor of the wind project.

“Sure, there are some concerns. (But) it’s time to move forward.”

He said it might be beneficial to open the issue up to a public vote.

David Manwell talked about the harmful effects of fossil and nuclear fuels on the environment, the acid rain that has the potential to destroy the Adirondacks and the constant pollution.

“These add no poisons,” he said of the turbines.

He mentioned a view was nice but not necessary to life, as this project is.

Each comment against Windhorse garnered loud applause, but when Manwell spoke, residents talked, moved around and left the room.

Zoning Board member Anthony Howard interrupted Manwell to quiet down the crowd and ask that he be given more respect until he finished.

Residents later showed video presentations to support their opposition to wind turbines.

One diagram showed the Macdonough Monument in Plattsburgh, standing at 135 feet, much smaller than the 460-foot turbines.

Cindy Root Baker of the Wind Community Advisory Board presented a slide show that included testimonials of people all over the world who reported adverse effects from wind facilities, including agitation, sleep deprivation, property-value loss, sickness and having to move from their homes.

“They crash, they burn, and they rust,” she said, showing pictures of all three occurrences.

Ted Klaudt talked about health issues, and Michael Morales, a resident of Rand Hill Road who is on the Community Advisory Committee, focused on the effect the project could have on property values.

With the issue tabled, the Zoning Board of Appeals can vote on the proposal at its Dec. 27 meeting. Because of the Planning Board’s rejection, the zoners will have to have a majority plus one to approve the project. It is also possible to send it back to the Clinton County Planning Board.

By: Lucas Blaise, Contributing Writer