The majority of the Gaines Wind Advisory Committee said at Wednesday’s meeting that they don’t believe wind energy is in the best interest of the Town of Gaines.
Their final recommendation to the town board, however, will be determined by their cutoff date of Nov. 14.
Concerned Gaines residents filled the town hall to capacity Wednesday evening as they listened to prepared statements from each of the committee members listing worries about noise, costs, property values, vibration effects and the impact on wildlife.
Of the eight-member board, two said they would be in favor of the 400-foot wind turbines. The remaining, including alternate Ted Swierznski sitting in for Royce Klatt, voiced opposition to the towers, while acknowledging their research is incomplete.
“Federal and state subsidies are the only reason wind energy is taking a foothold in this country,” said advisory member Marilynn Miller. “I am concerned for my quality of life. This is big business and big government taking the taxpayer for another ride and making them foot the bill.”
Advisory member Don Morton said he is largely concerned about what the town’s benefit would be from the turbines. Advisory member John Goslau said the towers could interfere with crop-dusting planes, as well as Internet and cell phone connections, and that profits would be sent out of state.
A few of the members argued over the turbine noise, citing visits to wind farms located in Munnsville and Tug Hill.
Advisory member Lori Mulrain said that while she is fascinated with the idea of wind energy and its advantages for the environment compared to nuclear or coal plants, she isn’t willing to sacrifice “looking at the stars” from her own yard.
“We must all remember we are only the customers of the land. We are obligated to keep Western New York as pristine as possible for our children and our grandchildren,” Goslau said. “Environmental issues, alone, should deter anyone.”
The frequent sale of wind turbine companies should be considered, said advisory member David Heminway. Airtricity’s North American operations were purchased Oct. 4 by E.O.N., a power and gas company based in Dusseldorf, Germany. The purchase price was $1.4 billion, including $553 million in net debt and shareholder loans.
The sale should not deter the company from pursuing projects already under way – including the those in the towns of Gaines and Albion, said advisory committee Vice Chairman Fred Nesbitt, who signed a lease with Airtricity and stated he is in favor of the turbines. Joan Brown, Airtricity vice president of development in the Northeast, is still the spokesperson for Gaines and Albion.
Heminway said he is also concerned because the population of Gaines is significantly denser than towns where turbines were erected. He added that the skyline from the top of Mount Albion Cemetery would change drastically. He said he doesn’t believe the tax income from the turbines would significantly reduce each resident’s town taxes, assuming the money was put toward alleviating the tax load.
He said the Cobblestone Society unanimously opposed the turbines at its last meeting.
“Unless it’s on your property, it won’t benefit you,” said Jason Gotte of Gaines, who told the committee the turbines in Munnsville are 75 feet shorter than the 55 to 80 towers proposed for Gaines and Albion.
“(Airtricity is) not going to line the local government’s pockets,” said Gaines resident Chris Appleton.
Gaines Town Supervisor Richard DeCarlo Sr. said the committee’s decision is only a recommendation for the board to consider. He said the nature of the final vote has yet to be determined, considering two of the five town board members have had to recuse themselves because they signed leases with Airtricity, and four is required for a quorum.
Swierznski suggested the ultimate decision be left to the people. DeCarlo said non-binding referendums are sometimes utilized by town boards as guidance. Upon the committee’s request, he said he would look into having it added to the Nov. 6 ballot, although Airtricity has yet to submit a formal application.
By Nicole Coleman
25 October 2007
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