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Tioga commissioners hear comments on wind farm application

WELLSBORO – A Tioga County resident took advantage of Tuesday’s commissioners meeting to urge officials to create a strong ordinance on the use of wind energy.

“It’s the commissioners’ responsibility to protect the interests of the county residents,” Leon Kocher of Covington Township said.

Kocher referred to a building permit application from wind energy company AES for plans to construct 124 wind turbines on 10,000 acres of leased property in Tioga and Bradford counties, as early as next spring.

“I’m not against the windmills,” Kocher said, “I just don’t want them near the homes of people who have not leased property to them.”

He claimed the application contains a “loophole” that needs to be corrected – the word “voluntary” in front of the word “setbacks” in the contract.

“The planning commission has decided to go with 1,315 feet, but that word “voluntary” needs to come out of there,” Kocher said.

The application states that the figure AES has in its application is the result of a mathematical computation of hub height times five, according to Kocher. Currently, that figure comes out to 1,315 feet, but “if they lower the hub height, that figure could be reduced under the current language in the application.”

“I told Jim (Weaver, Tioga County planner) that they had to get that wording out of there,” Kocher said. “The county needs an ordinance with some teeth in it that holds up over the years.”

A state law provides that protection for homeowners, according to Kocher, and the commissioners could pass an ordinance containing language based on it.

“The law says the county has the authority to provide for the general welfare of the public it serves by ‘guiding and protecting the amenity of the county.’ I look up that word and it means in regards to comfort, convenience, pleasure or pleasing, agreeable,” he said.

A firm setback of 1,315 feet does not affect the company’s application, unless it plans to add more turbines in the future, he said.

“Does anyone in this room think they won’t add more windmills?” Kocher asked. “Once everything is up and they are into the grid, you can bet they will add more windmills.”

He also suggested a written addition to the application, limiting the decibels of sound allowed and what actions would be taken if they are not in compliance with the ordinance, as well as something controlling “shadow flicker” or the intrusion of light into neighboring homes from the turbines.

Commissioners suggested Kocher take his concerns to the planning commission and talk to Weaver about it.

“They have been paying very close attention to all the issues involved with this. Many are being addressed, if they haven’t already,” Commissioner Erick Coolidge said.

By Cheryl R. Clarke

Williamsport SunGazette

19 December 2007