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Hamlin residents divided on wind towers

Hamlin residents remain sharply divided over a proposed law governing where wind energy towers should be located. About 200 of them packed into a church gymnasium last night for a public hearing on the proposed wind tower law developed by a law firm hired by the town board.

Some land owners have already signed leases with Iberdrola, a wind energy firm that wants to build a wind farm in Hamlin. Some spoke last night saying the lease money would help them keep their farms from development.

Other residents oppose wind towers for a variety of reasons. Some fear loss of property values, noise and the hazard of spinning wind turbine blades for migrating birds.

Troy Nesbitt is chair of the Hamlin Preservation Group which wants to see the 400 foot tall wind towers kept at least 17-hundred feet from a neighboring property line. He says his group would rather see a bigger setback, but believes 17-hundred is a good compromise. Nesbitt says the town government needs to find a compromise between the hard line wind supporters and opponents. He says that’s become harder because the town board first set up a citizens committee on wind power, then didn’t accept its recommendations.

The majority of the wind committee wanted the towers kept 2-thousand-460 feet from a home. A minority of the panel wanted 17-hundred feet. An early draft of the proposed town law suggested 15-hundred.

Some wind supporters like Art McFarland say it should be a thousand feet. McFarland said he’s for wind power in Hamlin and against restrictive zoning that would limit its development.

Town Supervisor Dennis Roach said last night that the 17-hundred foot setback was put into the town’s latest draft wind tower law for discussion only. He says a majority of the board thinks 26-hundred-40 feet is too restrictive, while some members prefer only a thousand foot setback. Roach says there’s no agreement on that figure yet.

The town hopes to have its laws written within a few weeks, and is pushing to get them finished before the state legislature takes up a power plant siting law that might supersede them.

If that happens, Hamlin will be a step closer to becoming the first Monroe County town with a commercial wind power farm.

By Bud Lowell

WXXI Public Broadcasting

8 February 2008