ENFIELD – A local law regulating windmills in Enfield is up for public hearing Monday, amid accusations of improper process and 11th-hour decision-making.
The law would require setbacks of 1,250 feet or 1.5 times the height of the windmill, whichever is greater, from all of the following:
* Property lines (including site boundary lines);
* Communication and electrical lines;
* Transmission facilities (sub-stations);
* Inhabited or inhabitable structures;
* Public roads, including seasonal roads;
* Robert Treman State Park and Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area;
* Neighboring town and county borderlines (unless they grant easements);
* Property lines of any school, church, hospital or nursing facility.
The law comes in response to a January proposal by developer John Rancich to erect 10 to 12 windmills on Connecticut Hill.
“It totally wipes it out,” Rancich said of the proposed law’s impact on his windmill project. “There’s no place in the county that you can get 1,250 feet away from every property line.”
Rancich said that based on the proposed setbacks, a person who owns one acre of property can prevent his neighbors from erecting windmills on a surrounding 134.7 acres of property, and a person who owns 150 acres in a perfect square would only be allowed to construct a windmill in the center one acre.
The Enfield Town Board and Planning Board have been researching and debating the issue for months in sometimes contentious meetings where a handful of members of the public interrupt and shout their disapproval of the windmill project.
James McConkey, co-chairman of the planning board, said the board’s consideration of the windmill law during their October meeting was cut off because “there was so much interruption and rudeness from the audience.”
“It was the most unpleasant meeting I’ve ever attended,” McConkey said. “It made me regret having volunteered my services to the Town of Enfield.”
McConkey said the board considered calling the police to remove unruly audience members but couldn’t because no one had cell phone reception and no land line was available.
The planning board instead chose to provide no recommendation on the law and send the issue back to the town board.
“We wanted to make an objective law that would apply not only to the present proposal but to any proposal that might come before the town,” McConkey said.
The current law will “extinguish any possibility for this proposal,” he said.
McConkey, Rancich and Supervisor-elect Frank Podufalski all expressed concern that such a contentious issue is being decided less than a month before three of the four town councilpersons will be replaced.
In the November election, Podufalski and three new councilpersons were elected. Only Robert Harvey will remain on the board.
“Somebody’s trying to ram something through before the end of the year,” Podufalski said.
Steve Bauman, who works with Rancich on another project in the Town of Ithaca but attends meetings and lobbies in favor of the wind project as a volunteer, said Supervisor Jean Owens has been “pushed to the outskirts” by town board members.
Calls to Owens Thursday and Friday were not returned.
Bauman, McConkey and Podufalski said the town board has called last-minute meetings without adequate public notice, and without the supervisor’s consent, while drafting the law.
“There’s been so many meetings going on down there, I don’t know about half of them,” Podufalski said. “Most of the public out here don’t know about it.”
Calls to Town Councilpersons Robert Harvey, Peggy Hubbell, and Sandra Small were not returned Friday.
By Krisy Gashler
15 December 2007
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