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Wind power may forever change town of Arkwright

The winds of change regarding the Arkwright area wind turbine issue are blowing much faster than people realize.

A Horizon Wind Power representative told us that even if planning board guidelines were approved, it would be 3 to 5 years before construction began. Don’t bet on it. They also told us that “only” 20 to 30 turbines would be constructed. Don’t bet on that one either.

Much is now being done behind the scenes by Horizon, by landowners who see mainly dollar signs, and by some town officials. Using an attorney recommended by the turbine company, the Town Board has been rewriting the wind power guidelines that the Planning Board created. This has been done at meetings closed to the public, with the supervisor citing attorney/client privilege. Aren’t we the clients? And isn’t that privilege for matters relating to personnel?

Here is some of what I expect to happen. The setbacks from turbines to residences will be significantly lowered. Horizon on its own Web site recommends setbacks of 1,000 to 1,500 feet from residences and 1,250 feet from non-participating landowners’ residences. But those numbers were for turbines under 400 feet. If Horizon is talking about turbines up to 500 feet tall, shouldn’t the setbacks be 25 percent greater? For example, 1,562 feet from the non-participating landowners’ residences. And shouldn’t all setbacks be measured from the tips of the 150-foot blades? After all, the blades create the flickering shadows, the reflective glare, the ice throw, and are a major source of noise.

When the Town of Martinsburg supervisor (Horizon’s Maple Ridge Wind Project) was asked what he would change after the fact, one item he mentioned was “setbacks.” They were, in hindsight, not enough – too late, however, for the landowners who now have to deal with the problems for the next few decades.

The board will change/delete the planning board’s recommendations to protect a neighbor’s land from flickering blade shadows. Imagine trying to enjoy your yard and woods with giant shadows flying past you. One group in the midwest is suing Horizon (Bloomington turbine project) claiming the moving shadows create dizziness and nausea. Sounds like common sense to me. Will you enjoy hiking or hunting in your woods with huge shadows going past you? The shadows will travel up to a mile, so Straight Road residents and others can enjoy them too.

Horizon said they will do shadow intrusion studies (and others), IF REQUESTED, that will guarantee that the shadows do not intrude on non-participating landowners’ properties. Will the town board protect us by requesting such studies so that turbines will be sited responsibly? The planning board did.

The board will try to exclude the rights of many Arkwright taxpayers simply because they are not full-time residents. They will say that the setbacks and other guidelines do not apply to them. Shouldn’t any U. S. property owner have a right to enjoy his/her land for whatever duration of time and know that elected officials are protecting their fundamental rights to health, safety, and well-being?

No protection/compensation/tax relief will be offered for decreasing property values. Already, one owner lost a sale because of the turbines. After she complained at a town board meeting, she was essentially brushed aside. You will see others try to sell once the turbines become a given, and many will lose significant portions of their investments. The name Arkwright will become synonymous with wind turbines, and all property owners, even miles away, will feel the cold bite of that ill wind when they go to sell.

The board will modify the noise-protection guidelines to best satisfy Horizon’s needs. They will change the guidelines with respect to wetlands, water and gas wells, and much more. In short, the guidelines they will soon pass will suit Horizon’s needs more than the landowners in the town. Studies will be canceled; protections will be negated.

And very soon after, Horizon will sweep into the town like a whirlwind. It would not surprise me to see construction begin this spring or summer. Very different from what we were led to believe. Of course. Why wait if certain studies aren’t required or if comprehensive plans are brushed aside? And any opponent can be threatened by Horizon with a lawsuit. Or have his house paint-balled. (Yes, both happened.)

It may grieve many to hear me say this, but I believe that we are about to witness the death of Arkwright as all Chautauqua County residents know it – a naturally beautiful, peaceful, tranquil place to live and raise one’s children; the land with majestic woods, creeks, and waterfalls; the town voted best rural town in Western New York this year. The town is about to have its heart torn out of it, its center, its very identity. Sound extreme? You better believe it is.

The people of Arkwright have a very short time to stand up and let their wishes be known. If you allow the town board to push the turbine guidelines through as modified, you will indeed live to regret it – as did so many in Europe. Many of the studies coming out of France, England, Germany, and elsewhere are grim reminders that the people there did too little too late. Just this year The Medical Society of France recommended halting construction of turbines closer than 4,921 feet from residences to avoid the negative health impacts being seen throughout Europe. They learned a painful lesson. Why do we refuse to learn from them?

If I am wrong in all this, I will stand up and publicly apologize to all I have wronged. If I am right, this is a truly dark time for us all.

Vincent P. Martonis is a Hanover resident.