More meetings planned for wind turbine discussion
Following another general meeting filled with lengthy debate, the Potter County Planning Commission (PCPC) will be discussing the guidelines for wind turbines in separate workshop sessions beginning later this month.
Nearly 40 people packed the Planning Office Tuesday night to share their views on how strictly the county should regulate wind turbines. Eventually, PCPC decided to invite experts and advisors to help members assess the issues during a series of informational meetings.
The first of these, slated for 6 pm on Jan. 22 and Jan. 29, will be held at the Potter County Education Council office on North Main Street in Coudersport. The sessions are open to the public, although no action will be taken and public participation will be limited.
Planners have been trying for months to adopt amendments to the county’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) so that wind turbines would have to meet certain standards, including minimum setbacks from adjacent properties.
Citizens shared their views with PCPC members for more than an hour.
Among the speakers was Bob Daley, a member of the Save God’s Country group formed last year to battle a plan to place upwards of 80 massive turbines on high-altitude farmland near Ulysses.
Daley said he was disappointed that PCPC members backed down on an original plan to require setbacks of seven times a turbine’s height. He noted that the commission had instead passed a setback provision advocated by wind turbine companies.
“This is the classic ‘fox guarding the hen house,'” Daley said.
He also warned of reduced property values in areas where turbines are built and adverse health effects from exposure to turbine noise.
Mike Mulcahey, who is involved in wind turbine plans in areas north and south of Coudersport, countered that studies have shown no difference in property values attributed to the presence of wind turbines. He also questioned the validity of studies on turbines’ impact on human health.
Some county residents told of their recent problems with selling land because of the proposed turbine sites.
Stanley Goodwin responded that he had already sold property in an area targeted for wind turbines. He said other prospective buyers told him they were not concerned about the prospects of turbines being built nearby.
Another health concern debated on Tuesday night was the impact on humans from shadow flicker, which is intermittent light and shade created when the turbine’s swinging blades are struck by the sun.
“All of us who live in Potter County deal with (flicker) driving on the roads when the sun shines through the trees,” pointed out Ulysses resident Roy Hunt.
Both Hunt and another member of the audience, David Saulter, suggested that PCPC seek advice and information from disinterested parties outside of the agency’s business meetings to become better informed on issues surrounding wind turbines.
PCPC member Mitch DeLong agreed.
“We need to get through this without interruption,” he said. “There are issues beyond the wind farms we need to address that we have not been able to get to.”
Commission Chair Wanda Shirk asked for volunteers to serve on the study committee and all of the PCPC members said they wanted to be included. In addition to DeLong and Shirk, they included Marshall Hamilton, Bill Dean, Rance Baxter and John McLaughlin. The other PCPC member, John Nordquist, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Once the commission adopts changes to the SALDO, the document will be submitted to Potter County Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover for acceptance, revision or rejection. A public comment period is also required by law.
The commission also held elections for 2008 officers, with Shirk retaining the chair, Hamilton as the vice president and Dean as the secretary and treasurer.
By Travis Moshier
12 January 2008
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