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Debate rages over wind farms in Spafford

A proposal to regulate certain types of windmills has hit a nerve in one Onondaga County town.

A week from Thursday, Spafford will hold a public hearing on the law aimed at private windmills, but it’s ignited a much larger debate.

It’s easy to see how you could get swept up with the idea of harnessing the wind in Spafford; it’s a pretty steady part of living in many areas of the town.

“Just from the different types of tin on our roof you can tell we’ve been dealing with wind here for a number of years because we’ve had several roofs blown off,” says resident Chris Fesko, who’s considering building a wind farm.

A 60-foot wind mill that draws water out of the ground is all Fesko has up now, but she is very strongly considering a wind farm just up the ridge line.

“I see it as a huge advantage for the town of Spafford, both financially as well as electrically. It can put you on the map,” Fesko says.

The Feskos have been in real discussions with some wind power companies for nearly a decade. The test tower still stands in just a small part of their 1,500 acres of land; the ridge line would be ripe for a wind farm like those seen in Madison County.

The town has nothing on the books to deal with wind mills of any kind. The law under consideration is aimed more at smaller wind mills; with three applications for them in the last two months, the supervisor says they have to start somewhere to regulate wind mills.

“We were a little bit behind the curve on this particular issue, it caught us a little bit off guard, but we’re trying to rectify it,” says Spafford town supervisor Webb Stevens.

“It’s been an atmosphere of, ‘we’ll just deal with things as they come up,’ instead of having a long range plan for the community,” says Sandra Weigel, a resident who is against the proposed wind farm.

“I think the character of the entire community would be changed,” Weigel says.

But the debate over wind power seems to be getting louder now.

The supervisor says he will ask Chris Fesko’s husband, a town board member, to abstain from voting on this law. The public hearing for it will be next Thursday at 7p.m. at the town hall.

Stevens says he will begin looking at legislation concerning wind farms very soon, but expects it would be more than a year before a law would be ready.

NewsChannel 9 WSYR

3 July 2008