May 28, 2008

Beaver Ridge group calls for reinstatement of ordinance; Freedom anti-windmill group explains concerns

Many of the landowners whose property abuts the Beaver Ridge windmill project met at the Beaver Ridge Road home of Sally Hadyniak Saturday afternoon to voice some concerns about the windmill project and explain why they want the town to reinstate its commercial development review ordinance.

The question, “Shall an ordinance entitled Town of Freedom Commercial Development Review Ordinance be enacted with all of its provisions being retroactive to June 12, 2007?” will be voted on by secret ballot referendum June 10. The question was added to the ballot as the result of a petition that was started by resident Jeff Keating.

Keating explained at Saturday’s press conference that he wants to see in writing that the builders of the project, formerly referred to as Competitive Energy Services (CES) but now known as Beaver Ridge Wind LLC, will abide by the standards set forth in the ordinance. Originally, CES had worked with the town while it created the ordinance but, according to the abutters, were ultimately unwilling to make the windmill project meet the ordinance’s guidelines, and encouraged the town to get rid of the ordinance after it had been enacted.

“The fact that they pushed to get rid of it makes me nervous,” Keating said.

Keating and many of the other abutters, including Hadyniak, Steve and Judy Bennett, David and Maryann Bennett, Jason Wade and Erin Bennett-Wade were at the press conference and explained that they want the ordinance to be reinstated because they want some protection. They want the developers to pay to repair any road damage that results from heavy loads that are associated with the building, and they want to know that the developers will take care of the turbines, should they be abandoned in the future. They said the ordinance made sure these things would happen, and now there is no binding written document that ensures that the builders will take care of these things. The abutters said they want a guarantee that the town will be financially protected.

In addition to financial guidelines – including a requirement that developers would have to pay for any additional training that might be required for the fire department as a result of a new development – the ordinance provided some safety guidelines as well, such as fall zones around the turbines, and a requirement that turbines be shut down under certain conditions, such as when icing is a problem.

The abutters said that the developers purchased GE turbines for the Beaver Ridge project, and that GE recommends a 750 to 1,000-foot setback from turbines, to provide a safety zone for potential dangers such as ice-throw. They said that without the ordinance in place, there are no safety requirements, except for a 20-foot property setback. According to the abutters, there are 17 homes located within 3,000 feet of the turbines, three of which are located just over 1,000 feet from the project site.

The abutters said that if the ordinance does not get reinstated, Freedom will be the only town in the state to have an industrial wind project that has no standards whatsoever. They said there are state guidelines regarding wind turbine development, but they were put into effect after the Beaver Ridge project started, so they do not apply. They hope that voters will decide to bring back the ordinance. They said it won’t stop the turbines from being built, but it will offer some standards and protection for all Freedom’s residents.

Other issues raised by the abutters Saturday included:

• A concern that, once roads are constructed and power lines have been put in, the developers will easily be able to put in additional windmills;

• A concern that property values will go down. Asked one of the abutters, “Who would build 300 feet from a 400-foot turbine?”

• Uncertainty about noise pollution. The abutters said that they didn’t know who would be affected by noise from the turbines, but they were sure that some people would be.

• The fate of Freedom’s bird hospital, Avian Haven. Avian Haven is located a mile away from the construction site, and spokesperson Marc Payne said the rehabilitation center will have to be moved if the turbines are constructed.

By Megan Richardson

28 May 2008

URL to article: