Gorham, N.Y. – The town Planning Board voted unanimously yesterday to let a resident’s plan to erect a wind turbine move forward after listening to speakers equally divided over the prospect of a windmill in view of the lake.
Specifically, the board allowed Jack Schilbe’s plan for a windmill at his 100-acre Jones Road farm to pass the environmental review by ruling that it would not negatively affect views in the neighborhood.
Two residents disagreed.
“Visually, I think it’s in the wrong spot,” said Sue Kotalik of County Road 11. “You picked the best place on the lake, and you’re going to ruin the view.”
“Visual pollution will be the result,” agreed Bob Gusciora of Thorndale Beach.
Board members, however, compared it to a silo.
“It’s 18 inches wide and 100 feet high,” board member Neil Atkins said of the windmill Schilbe plans to buy.
“How high is a typical silo?” asked board member George McCadden.
“The average dairy farm is going to have an 80-foot silo on it,” answered Debbie North of County Road 18.
“You can barely see the silos,” interjected Atkins.
Residents were not swayed.
“A silo has a different presentation to the eye than a windmill,” insisted Gusciora. “You have squeezed the people on the lake year after year with your rules.”
Board members noted that Schilbe’s project would not be a 400-foot industrial turbine meant to generate power for the electrical grid.
“You’re talking about a farmer putting up an individual (windmill) for his own use,” argued McCadden.
“The galvanized color blends really quick and they are hard to see,” said board Chairman Tom Harvey, explaining that the tower itself wouldn’t even poke above the topography. “I don’t think you’re going to see this thing from more than three miles away. In the 1880s all the farms around here had windmills.”
“To pump the water,” chimed in Schilbe.
Other residents were in favor of the project.
“We worked very hard to have a law that would be fair to anyone who wanted to look into green energy … the law protects and provides opportunity,” said North.
“I think this is exactly what we should be doing. Because of our reliance on oil and the energy crisis, we need to be looking at these things and allowing them to happen,” agreed Roger Carroll of East Lake Road.
According to the town’s zoning laws, at 100 feet high, the windmill is not considered residential and must meet the criteria for a commercial turbine.
“What safety features does it have?” asked McCadden.
“It’s rated for 150-mile-an-hour winds,” said Mike Parks, president of North East Renewable Energy Resources Inc. in Bloomfield, which would sell Schilbe the turbine.
“With ice build-up, it gets out of balance and it will quit turning,” he continued, explaining that the tower was designed to withstand a 1-inch coating of ice with wind speeds of 40 mph.
“The standard for this area is half an inch of ice with 70 mph winds,” Harvey noted.
The board recommended that Parks include in his plan a 6-foot-high stockade fence surrounding the windmill.
Schilbe’s application is the second the town has received for windmills. John Fuller was approved for an 80-foot windmill eight months ago. In order to qualify for state grant money, Fuller’s windmill needs to be 20 feet higher so it can produce more wind energy. Both Fuller and Schilbe are expected to offer their completed applications to the Planning Board at its June meeting.
By Michele E. Cutri-Bynoe, correspondent
20 May 2008