MAINESBURG – AES put its best foot forward in an attempt to educate and convince area residents that its proposed wind turbine project is a good thing.
AES officials had about 200 brochures on hand at a community center Tuesday to pass out to visitors at an open house. By the end of the evening, the firm had about 20 left.
Members of the crowd visited several stations displaying information about the company and maps showing the potential layout of the turbine project which could place up to 76 turbines across two counties, about two-thirds of the way from Armenia Mountain to Blossburg.
The turbines would provide about 150 megawatts of electricity per year, enough to power a community of about 49,000 residences, according to project director Bob White.
The wind farm would be on 9,000 acres of leased land in Sullivan and Rutland townships in Tioga County and in Armenia and Ward townships in Bradford County.
The energy created would be fed into a transmission line that runs along the north side of the mountain, crossing Route 15 just north of Blossburg, White said.
In order to generate electricity, a 14-mph wind speed is needed, and “Armenia Mountain has it,” he said.
White and Charlie Spencer, company spokesman, addressed the group and fielded questions.
The most important question to the most people seemed to be how the project could affect property values and taxes.
Taxes on the leases that the company will pay will amount to about $225,000 annually for the municipalities in both counties, White said.
One man wanted the company to provide a written guarantee that his property values would not go down if the project goes through, by the end of next year if all goes as planned.
“Property values are determined by any number of things,” White responded.
“In other words, you can’t give me a guarantee they won’t go down,” the man said.
Others wanted to know about the roads the company would use to transport its 425-foot towers, 18 feet in diameter, as well as the turbine blades, more than 40 feet long, to the sites.
“How are you going to get your equipment up to the mountain?” one resident asked Erika Lund, an environmental studies consultant for AES.
If the roads are not wide enough, the company either will “œimprove them” or use an alternate route, Lund said. Once the project is finished, the improved roads up the mountain would be put back to normal size.
The road will need to be 16 to 24 feet wide to support the size and weight of the equipment and the trucks that will be used to bring them in, she said.
The company expects to be ready to apply to the county planning commissions by the end of the year, following environmental impact studies and visual and audio testing to determine how far the turbines can be seen and heard.
Another public hearing will be held in June in Troy, White said.
None of the three Tioga County commissioners attended the meeting, despite pleas from residents at their morning meeting.
“Private landowners have the right to sign leases for use of their land,” Commissioner Sue Vogler said during the morning commissioners meeting. “The commissioners have no right to tell them what to do with their land.”
The commissioners’ job is to represent the majority of the people of the county, she said.
“I can go to the meeting, but it’s going to be a free-for-all, let’s face it,” Vogler said.
Tom Saveri, Democrat write-in candidate for commissioner, concurred with Vogler, saying that without zoning, there isn’t much the county can do.
“There is not much that can be done unless it causes harm,” he said.
By Cheryl R. Clarke
23 May 2007
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