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Questions continue to generate over wind energy in Arkwright

The estimated 40 individuals who turned out to hear a presentation on wind energy and its impact on property owners and residents, sat scattered throughout the Cassadaga Valley High School auditorium Saturday morning.

They were treated to coffee and donuts provided by Horizon Wind Energy, one of two companies which has expressed interest in establishing a commercial wind farm in the Town of Arkwright.

The forum, sponsored by the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board and the Town of Arkwright, featured speakers who covered potential impacts of wind turbines on agriculture, birds and bats, noise problems and the legal aspects of wind energy.

Also answered were allegations that members of the Arwright Town Board and the attorney hired by the board to develop a draft local law covering wind energy facilities were in league with Horizon.

Daniel Spitzer, the attorney who specializes in wind turbine laws and has been hired by the town board to draft Arkwright’s local law, says he works for the town and no one else.

“When I first took on this job, I asked the town board members if any of them would benefit from the wind farm project and was told that none of them would,” Spitzer said.

Councilman Larry Ball confirmed this. “I will not benefit nor will anyone else on the town board,” he said Saturday.

These questions were raised by various individuals who attended town board meetings in the past and by an anonymous letter sent to the OBSERVER.

The major questions from the audience Saturday centered on noise, health and property value issues.

Data on the noise generated by wind turbines and the effect this would have on the health of individuals exposed to it were among the primary concerns addressed by the audience.

David Hessler, an independent acoustical engineer provided data that supported studies which indicate wind turbines do not cause noise pollution.

“They do not make houses shake or rattle dishes – they may be big, but they are not loud. Rather, the wind generators are like a well-behaved child, seen, but not heard,” he said.

The turbine noise, described as a whooshing sound, decays to between 44 and 45 dbas over the common setback of 1,000 feet, he said.

The problem with low frequency noise, which some identify as causing health issues, began back in the early days of turbine development, Hessler said.

Since then, he added, the turbines have been redesigned and the thump noise that was once common has been eliminated.

Preliminary site plans presented for review have been adjusted when noise problems have been identified, Hessler said.

When asked if he had audio data available, rather than charts, to demonstrate the noise generated by the wind turbines, Hessler said he didn’t have that information on hand.

“It would be nice to hear what it sounds like rather than try to interpret what the graphs you are showing us are saying,” one audience member said.

Ball said he compares the noise a wind generator makes to a clothes dryer that has been dragged across a field.

“In the laundry room it’s noticeable, but from a distance, it’s not,” he said.

Arkwright resident Bob Holland said medical literature he has found indicates low frequency sound causes health problems and that projections have underestimated this impact.

In response, Hessler said specialists in this field have indicated wind turbines do not have the capacity of creating low level frequency problems.

Spitzer spoke about his involvement with wind farm development laws which ranges from “no to maybe”.

“I helped creating a law for the Town of Malone that prohibits the construction of commercial wind energy generators that was adopted in March of this year.

“The one I drafted for Arkwright falls into the maybe catagory,” he said.

Under the Arkwright proposed law, developers would have to submit a plan that the town board would review, before making a decision on whether or not the plan could move forward, he said.

“It is not a right to use law, where a developer comes into town and gets to go ahead with the project,” Spitzer said.

He also noted that under New York State law, a referendum cannot be held on zoning issues.

Rather, he said, the draft local law developed for Arkwright reflects community values with a wind overlay zone that will benefit the community as a whole.

“It gives the town board the right to say no, if a rational reason for this denial is presented, and each turbine project is presented on an individual basis,” he said.

When asked why the board was pressuring to get the commerical wind turbine law in place, Spitzer said town officials are not rushing the local law.

“It’s the town board’s job to know what the community values are and it’s the job of the public to inform them of the rationale behind their support or opposition to the project,” he said.

He also said studies he has read indicate wind generators have a minimal impact on property values.

But, he added, “It all depends on the location and the assessor’s values.”

Arwkright Supervisor Fred Norton said a review of the draft local law covering commerical wind generators will be held on at 9 a.m. onDec. 9 at the Forestville Elementary School.

A public hearing on this proposed law will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Arkwright Town Hall.

A copy of this proposed law will be available on the Southern Tier West’s web site by Tuesday of this coming week.

By Joan Josephson, Observer Staff Writer