Questions, criticism and bewilderment characterized the exchanges made by attendees in the full-to-overflowing meeting room at the Town of Hamlin offices during the February 20 wind tower committee meeting. Several individuals called for the meeting to be canceled and rescheduled at a larger venue so those individuals who were forced to stand in the hall could hear and have their comments heard.
Troy and Tricia Nesbitt, part of the Hamlin Preservation Group, handed out fliers to all who walked through the doors. The flier contained a list of questions “You might want to ask “¦ .” Art McFarlane, chairman of the Wind Tower Committee, refused to take one of the fliers saying, (he) “can’t be swayed “¦ and was not interested in the information the flier contained. I’m thinking scientifically and coming to my own conclusions,” McFarlane said. He did say that based on his research so far, wind towers are not a bad thing. ‘But, my mind is still open.”
Tricia Nesbitt said she “has a hard time believing McFarlane will make a decision that’s in the best interest of the community.”
According to information from the meeting, McFarlane’s son-in-law has signed a lease with the wind tower developer looking to move into the town. ‘I am not benefiting financially from what my son-in-law does and I haven’t even read the lease,” McFarlane said.
CVP, Inc. wants to erect wind towers in the areas of Morton, Redman, Moscow and County Line Road within the town. There are 120 houses adjacent to the area proposed for the wind tower construction. (No formal proposal has been presented to the town as yet).
According to the town’s website in the section devoted to wind towers, (http://www.hamlinny.org/wind-tower.html) Town Supervisor Dennis Roach reported that he was advised, shortly before taking office in January 2006, that an out-of-state developer was negotiating land lease agreements with some major land owners in the northwest quadrant of the town, which is included within the town’s extensive agricultural district, where wind feasibility maps indicate a potential for wind energy development. “Like most towns in the state, we were not prepared for this. We had no local laws regulating wind towers nor any meaningful research to determine whether the towers would be in the best interest of the Town,” he states on the website.
In late 2006, nine members were selected to serve on a Wind Tower Committee to research both the pros and the cons of wind tower placement in the town. Twenty-one residents applied to serve; those chosen were: Jerry Borkholder, Linda DeRue, Ed Evans, Edward Haight, David Lukas, Art McFarlane, Glen Quetschenbach, Mark Reeves and Andrew Simpson. The group is charged with determining whether wind towers are in the best interest of the entire town and with developing regulations appropriate to their determination.
At the February 20 meeting, Borkholder asked if the setbacks had been determined – the number of feet within which a wind tower could be located near a residence. Reeves said setbacks would likely be 1,000 feet from a residential structure. “Also the first half-mile from the lake is protected because of the migratory birds,” he said.
Matt MacDonald asked what would happen with the wetlands in the area where the towers were proposed.
McFarlane said, “I understand the towers can be located in a wetland as long as the installation doesn’t disturb it.”
Renee Cliff wanted to know if any investigation had been done to whether the turbines would affect groundwater. “The stretch of Redman Road that you are looking at has houses that use well water,” she said. “I also understand that part of that property is on an earthquake ground fault. Has that been looked into?”
Tony Callari said, “Naturally there are benefits to the landowners who will have the towers on their property and I can’t tell anyone what they can or cannot do on their own land but if it will negatively impact my quality of life then I have to say.”
Callari said the point he wanted to make was that windfarms don’t make sense aesthetically and that they will negatively impact property values. “I shouldn’t have to suffer to put money in someone else’s pocket. You are asking me to give my view, my lifestyle to benefit others.”
“I agree, it shouldn’t be just one landowner that benefits. The whole town should benefit in some way,” Reeves said.
Tom Jensen said he understands the role of the committee is to make recommendations on how to regulate tower construction. “The committee’s purpose is also to look at the benefits and detriments to the town. I don’t care which group wants to come in and put up towers, I just want the codes to regulate them and the rules to be followed.”
At a later point in the sometimes contentious meeting, McFarlane made a statement that was disputed by both committee members and residents when he said that there was a “potential for every property owner’s town taxes to drop by 25 percent.”
Committee member Linda DeRue asked where his figures came from, while committee member Andy Simpson said there were no guarantees that the towers would be around in 20 years to even generate revenue. When committee members and residents asked McFarlane where he obtained his figures and information, he declined to answer. “I think you shouldn’t give answers to questions if you don’t have the documentation to back it up. We can’t be up here making predictions,” Borkholder said. “Don’t give erroneous or incomplete information. Just say ‘we don’t have the information and we will have to get back to you once we find out.’ ”
“There are a lot of assumptions going on. You are saying the towers won’t make money but other towns’ towers are. The towers make money when the wind blows and we have the best wind in the area here in Hamlin. If we can’t make money here, then no one can,” McFarlane said.
Resident Ed Doan wanted to know if something would be written in the code in the event the towers weren’t profitable and were removed. “Will there be something to protect us in the removal process? Will the concrete be removed?”
Sue Kingsbury is worried about the medical aspects of having the towers in the area. “My daughter suffers from seizures and I’m afraid the strobe and flicker effect from the blades will affect her negatively.”
McFarlane said there were no studies to prove there was any negative effect on people. “To my knowledge, there is no reputable information that says the turbines will affect health,” he said.
The meeting was slated to be two hours long with one hour devoted to community member input, the second to reports gathered by the committee members. By 9:15 p.m., only two committee members had the opportunity to give their reports on a recent visit to a wind tower farm before the meeting was abruptly called to an end by committee member Mark Reeves. At one point during the meeting, a decibel meter was passed around so individuals could get a look at the read out – for the most part, the noise level in the room hovered between 56 and 60 decibels – a level at which wind tower sound was measured. “The difference is,” one attendee said, “I don’t have that noise level constantly at my house.”
Town Supervisor Denny Roach listened to the meeting from the hallway. In a phone interview the following day he said, “It’s a process and the committee is working its way through it. They have a big responsibility and task ahead of them.”
Roach said he thought the committee members did the right thing by going to a twice a month meeting schedule – one at which the residents could speak and another that would be a work session.
There will be a public hearing at the town hall on March 12 at 7 p.m. at which time the town board will consider enacting a moratorium on wind tower construction, Roach said.
25 February 2007