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Wind farms: Towns should seek guidance  

In Enfield, developer John Rancich has proposed building 10-12 wind mills on Connecticut Hill. The wind farm proposal is controversial, to say the least.

About 50 people packed a public hearing recently about a town proposal to limit where wind farms can be placed in relation to the nearest road. The hearing came amid allegations of previously secret meetings that violated the state’s open meetings law. Rancich contends the “setback proposal,” as it is known in Enfield, will wipe out his plans for a wind farm.

All of this tension makes you wonder if a wind farm is worth it. We have neighbor fighting neighbor and governments under stress to regulate something they are not familiar with. The end result is the building of large structures that could, if placed in the wrong spot, disrupt our county’s landscape. That said, we aren’t opposed to wind farms. We just want them placed in the right locations.

Even if you don’t live in Enfield, there are at least two reasons to be concerned about the wind farm debate. The first is that a wind farm could be coming near you if you live in a rural area. The second is that even if it isn’t in your backyard, a wind farm will have an effect on the county.

The Tompkins County Planning Department realizes the seriousness of the debate. This week, Ed Marx, the commissioner of planning, said there are plans for the department to research the issue in 2008. That research will include looking at which areas may be the best locations to place wind farms in the county.

“We are in the process of studying this issue,” Marx said. “We recognize people will need the information.”

Part of what county planning wants to do is work with town governments to get it right here. Marx said towns have options. They can research what other communities in New York have done regarding wind farms, hire a consultant or contract with county planning since the work is labor-intensive.

The larger debate is a complicated one. The wind farms force us to decide whether we want the tradeoff of having affordable energy but having to look at an unsightly structure to get it. Some may go as far as saying that the wind farm debate is actually tied to the Iraq War and other similar conflicts. If we don’t protect our access to oil, but remain a nation dependent on it, we could see more oil-fueled conflicts in the future.

We look forward to reading the Tompkins County Planning Department’s research on the issue in 2008. In the meantime, if our towns are moving forward with wind farm proposals, we urge them to work with experts during the journey – we will literally be able to see the end product.

The Ithaca Journal

28 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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