The landscape along the rolling hills of Cohocton and nearby towns is beginning to change.
Towering windmills standing 420-feet high are beginning to emerge along the Dutch Hill ridges near Interstate Highway 390.
“I think they’re pretty neat,” said Jaki Smith, an employee at Carey’s, a local grocery store. “And maybe it’s something that will attract people to Cohocton.”
So far, two windmills have been completed on Dutch Hill, which overlooks the town. On nearby sites, 13 more windmills have been partially completed, said Rick Towner, assistant operations and maintenance manager for Canandaigua Power Partners, the project developer.
To the west, preparations have begun to erect wind turbines on Lent Hill.
When completed, a total of 50 wind mills, each capable of generating 1.5 megawatts of power, will provide a renewable energy source to supply the national grid.
Construction began late last fall and has continued steadily into the winter, with high winds the only factor in construction, Towner said.
“And yesterday, when we had the high winds, we didn’t have crane work scheduled, so really, that didn’t delay us,” he said.
But work on three sites has been delayed for other reasons.
Officials originally thought the sites were in the Wayland-Cohocton Central School district and arranged for a series of future payments from the developer. Further study found the future windmill sites were actually in the Naples school district.
“What will happen is the money set aside for those sites will go to Naples instead of WayCo,” Towner said. “It’s not a big deal.”
As a result, a public hearing will be held 10 a.m. Jan. 18 in the Atlanta Town Courtroom.
Smith, and some business owners, such as Nelson and Bonnie Inscho, hope the project brings more traffic and business to Cohocton, a town of 2,600 residents.
Smith said she moved back to town in October and missed most of the controversy involving wind farm in Cohocton, and across Steuben County in recent years.
Other wind farms are being considered in the towns of Hornellsville, Howard, Hornby and Prattsburgh.
Opponents charge the mammoth turbines are inefficient generators of electricity and threaten the welfare and rural character of the county.
Supporters argue the projects supply renewable energy and provide financially struggling towns with significant revenues. In Cohocton’s case, town officials expect to receive $500,000 annually for the next 20 years as the projects’ host.
But despite the potential financial benefits to the towns, opponents in several towns have filed lawsuits against the projects.
Most recently, in Cohocton, three lawsuits were filed by a group called Cohocton Wind Watch. It claims the process used by town officials to allow the wind mills to be built was flawed.
The result of the disputes in Cohocton has been a badly divided town, some merchants said. One merchant declined comment, saying an opinion either way could mean lost business.
That logic makes sense to Maggie Dailey, owner of Cameo Classics/Hot Spots.
“I had no opinion for or against before,” she said. “Now I really have no opinion for or against. It keeps arguments to a minimum.”
By Mary Perham
10 January 2008
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