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Planners approve wind turbine restrictions; Ordinance forces energy companies to erect turbines acres from adjacent properties

Potter County Planning Commission (PCPC) members took steps to regulate the construction of wind turbines in the county Tuesday night during a lengthy meeting.

They passed an ordinance requiring that machines be located a distance of at least seven times their height from adjacent properties.

In the case of the approximately 80 turbines proposed by international energy giant AES Corporation in northern Potter County – each extending an estimated 415 feet in the air to the tip of the blade – they would have to be at least 2,900 feet from the nearest property line.

Setbacks were a major concern voiced by members of Save God’s Country, a citizens’ group formed to fight the location of an unregulated wind turbine development in Ulysses and Hector townships.

Wind energy companies are also eying Hebron Township, north of Coudersport, and Homer and Eulalia townships, south of the borough.

PCPC members have wrestled with setbacks and other proposed regulations for several months. Starting in September and continuing on Tuesday, they approved a series of amendments to the county’s Subdivision and Land Development

Ordinance to control

turbines that would generate electricity from the wind.

The commission will continue to tinker with the amendments at its Nov. 13 meeting before submitting the new ordinance to the Potter County Board of Commissioners for adoption.

During Tuesday’s meeting, PCPC Chair Wanda Shirk repeated her contention that the agency needs to find middle ground.

“We do not want to over- regulate,” she insisted.

PCPC heard from Tammy Perkins, a Fox Hill resident who said turbines are being targeted for property near her home.

“We urge you to protect the people who are going to be affected directly by these turbines,” Perkins said. “I am worried about the welfare of my family and about the impact this is going to have on our property values.”

Her concerns were echoed by another northern Potter County resident, Ivan Lehman, who said he is not opposed to wind energy.

“But I am against letting them be put in at the sacrifice of the adjoining landowners,” Lehman said. “It’s wrong not to protect the other people.”

Coudersport area resident Gary Buchsen countered that PCPC also has a duty to protect the rights of the property owner who might be able to benefit financially by leasing land for turbine construction.

Stanley Goodwin, who owns land in the Dutch Hill area, said he has already moved forward with surveys and other steps to lease property for wind turbines.

“It’s going to mean a lot of money to me, and I’ll spend that money in this county,” Goodwin said.

Joe and Marcia Lagrua of Eulalia Township, who had attended a speech on energy independence by U.S. Congressman John Peterson the night before, said PCPC should be wary of restricting alternative energy development.

“‘We need to develop other types of energy for the good of our country,” Joe Lagrua said. “Plus, as a landowner, I should have the right to do whatever I want.”

PCPC members spoke of their duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of county residents. Shirk said the strict setback requirement would likely ease neighbors’ concerns about the noise that industrial wind turbines might generate.

The seven-to-one setback ratio passed by a 4-0 vote, with John Nordquist, Mitch DeLong, Rance Baxter and Bill Dean in favor. Shirk did not cast a vote. PCPC members Bill Hunter and Marshall Hamilton were absent.

After the meeting, members Save God’s Country expressed appreciation to the Planning Commission for adopting stricter setback requirements than originally drafted.

Endeavor News

13 October 2007