Extra chairs had to be brought into Arkwright’s highway barns to accommodate the number of people who turned out for the public hearing on the New Grange Wind Farm draft environmental impact statement (DEIS).
At the outset of the hearing, town attorney Daniel Spitzer said its purpose was to record public statements and opinions on the DEIS, which is part of the required State Environmental Quality Review process.
New Grange will have to respond to these statements, opinions and the slew of questions raised by the hearing attendees as well as written ones that have been submitted, Spitzer said
Because several individuals indicated they had a difficult time gaining access to the DEIS information, which is contained in two large notebooks, the board decided to extend the comment deadline to May 30.
Councilman Roger Cardot cast the lone no vote on this decision.
“We accepted the DEIS in February and provided access at the town hall and at the town clerk’s office and New Grange had a copy available on its Web site,” Cardot said. “I think we should stick with the 10-day comment period.”
With the rest of the town board approving the extended period, Supervisor Fred Norton said comments will be accepted by him and the attorney.
Arkwright Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Fred Bretl said he read through the DEIS and has forwarded concerns he has about the project to the town.
“I accept the fact that we need to address energy problems and, thinking about the future generation, I’m in favor of the project,” he said.
But, he noted, the project has fractured the community with some residents supporting it and others opposed to it.
“It will impact the environment and the economy – the overhead transmission lines will be in our faces and the biological impact on vegetation and wildlife has to be considered.
“We need specific plans that will address these concerns,” Bretl said.
Kerry Askins said he was among the “not in my back yard” advocates.
“The wind farm will completely change the character of Arkwright, the place I moved to for peace and quiet,” he said.
Askins was the first but not the last to raise the question of the impact the wind farm would have on property value.
Dorothy Holland raised the same question.
She also said the mitigation measures contained in the DEIS are not objectively defined.
“Will the township be subject to lawsuits filed by individuals who are opposed to the wind farm operation?” she asked.
Elizabeth Booth and Kathy Jackson said they found flaws and inconsistencies in the DEIS.
“I think the final plans should be known before any decisions are made,” Jackson said.
Booth suggested a copy of the DEIS be made available at a local library to give Arkwright residents better access to its contents.
Speaking in favor of the wind farm were Doug Fairbanks and his 11-year-old daughter Katie.
“I visited the Tug Hill wind farm and found the community’s economic hardship was no longer an issue. It is better off today because of the wind farm,” he said.
Katie asked the audience and the town board to think about the community’s children.
“I think it’s a great idea to provide us with clean air,” she said to applause.
Angela McAvoy said New Grange would provide the opportunity to build a strong economy for Arkwright.
“I think it will build a community that will encourage kids to stay here because Arkwright would be so much better,” she said.
Wendy Phillips said she thought the wind farm would be a solution to adverse environmental issues such as acid rain.
“New Grange would be a step in the right direction,” she said.
Jim Potter also supported the project.
“It will create a large lasting impact on our town and we should go forward with it,” he said.
Several others also spoke in favor of the wind farm project.
In response to Booth’s question about responses to the issues raised on the report, Spitzer said they would become part of the final environmental impact statement prepared by New Grange Wind Farm.
If there are significant changes to the report, another public hearing will be required, he said.
CRA consulting engineer Bob Adams said additional studies need to be completed before the final environmental impact study report is complete.
“It will take a while to have these supplemental studies done
“We review the final responses to determine if they are technically adequate and verify them,” Adams said.
By Joan Josephson
5 May 2008
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