Windhorse Power’s proposal for a wind-harvesting facility will know approval or refusal from the Beekmantown Zoning Board this week.
“This could be the beginning or the end,” said Dr. Ted Klaudt of the West Beekmantown Neighborhood Association.
Following approval of Windhorse’s State Environmental Quality Review application, the Zoning Board will weigh the merits of the project in a meeting starting at 6:30 tonight in the Beekmantown High School auditorium.
If a decision is not reached, a second meeting may be held on Thursday.
PAYMENT TO TOWN
Since the Vermont-based company’s request was made, more than a year ago, a strong controversy over the proposed 13-turbine facility has erupted.
“We were a little surprised,” Windhorse Power partner John Warshow said this week. “We are so far exceeding the noise standards and set-back standards that other communities have in place.”
Nevertheless, both sides have expended money and time to make their points.
Though Windhorse Power has not given firm figures on what could be expected from an annual payment in lieu of taxes, the company says it will benefit Beekmantown financially.
“I feel it (the facility) will be ecologically beneficial for planet Earth and economically beneficial for Beekmantown through the PILOT payments,” said Windhorse supporter David Manwell, who lives on Durand Road.
Members of the West Beekmantown Neighborhood Association, a group of more than 100 residents against the proposal, feel differently.
“I’ve been living here for three years,” said Klaudt. “Every year, my tax bill has gone up.”
He believes it will continue to rise, with the town levying taxes based on real-estate property, rather than the PILOT payments.
“They don’t change from year to year,” Klaudt said.
The possibility of new housing developments instead of wind farms could garner even more money, he said.
The association is also worried that any PILOT monies will barely reach the town when the cut that would go to the school districts is factored in.
The proposed facility will provide an estimated 20 megawatts of power, to be sold to the New York State Electric & Gas grid. Some opponents say the contribution is not substantial.
“When I want it, and when I need it, it’s got to be there,” Klaudt said about energy.
“For people like that I have to comment on the fact that when you have tried to use the grid, it has worked,” said Manwell. “It (energy) has to come from somewhere.”
Availability of electricity has been a national concern, spurring a state push for renewable power sources, including wind power.
“I’ve studied all kinds of energy to see which would be the least polluting form,” Manwell said. “This kind of leaves wind.”
A common complaint of opponents has been the proximity of the turbines to nearby residences. They fear sleep deprivation, flicker effect and drops in property values.
“I fully understand the concerns that have been made,” Warshow said.
In response, the company has adjusted its proposal from 100-meter turbines to 80-meter turbines and haa moved some towers to a less visible site of a 700-acre plot of land.
Manwell feels that an obstructed view is small when compared to the alternatives to energy production.
“They don’t kill people,” he said of wind turbines. “I think they’re beautiful. I also know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
However, the opponents say the issue is much broader than the view.
“We’re not against wind. We want the Zoning Board to uphold the zoning,” Klaudt said. “This has nothing to do with wind.”
Tonight the board will review Windhorse’s variance request. The current zoning ordinance doesn’t allow anything but residences in the Rand Hill area. The only exceptions are “essential services.” The ordinance describes these as either a municipality or public utility, with Windhorse petitioning that it is a utility.
Rand Hill residents have argued that it is not.
“They are an industry, and this is an industrial facility,” Klaudt said.
He asserts that the company is collecting energy and selling it to a public utility, rather than being one.
“I just believe that if they will allow them to come in here under the guise of an essential service, anybody else can,” Klaudt said.
If refused for a variance, Windhorse’s future isn’t clear, but Warshow said he’s been more than satisfied.
“I’m very respectful of the Beekmantown Zoning Board of Appeals,” he said.
If allowed the variance, the Neighborhood Association’s future is sure.
“We can sue with an Article 78,” said member Gary Peacock.
For both sides, the future comes down the board’s decision.
“We’re eager to see what happens,” Warshow said.
By Lucas Blaise
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