LITCHFIELD – Residents fear there aren’t enough regulations controlling wind farm projects like the one that could add a dozen turbines on Dry Hill in this rural Herkimer County town.
So, when the Town Council asked residents to help draft an ordinance that would control such projects, they jumped at the chance.
The proposed ordinance would require wind farm developers to go through multiple town permitting processes and impose requirements about how far turbines need to be set back from residences and other buildings.
“We tried to come up with a balanced, fair, approach to this,” said Jonathan Knauth, one of the residents who helped to draft the ordinance.
The proposed regulations came as welcome news to Save Sauquoit Valley Views – a citizens group that has been critical of the possible wind farm project, citing declining property values and health risks.
The group wants the public to learn more about the ordinance at a Wednesday meeting it’s hosting at Sauquoit Valley Middle School.
“We fully support the wind ordinance as it’s been presented,” said Sheila Salvatore, a member of Save Sauquoit Valley Views. “It’s pretty reasonable what they’re asking for. This was a conscientious effort.”
Among the regulations suggested: Companies would have to secure construction permits and operational permits from the town. Operational permits would have to be renewed every five years after an outside engineer conducts a safety evaluation.
The proposed ordinance also would require a wind company to obtain easements from all residences within 6,500 feet of a turbine.
Town Council member James Entwistle said the possibility of a wind farm has brought strong opinions from residents, so last year the council asked for residents to get involved in drafting an ordinance.
The town currently does not have an ordinance governing wind farms. A moratorium on wind farms in the town is in effect until September.
Albany-based NorthWind and Power LLC has talked about building a 20 megawatt farm on Dry Hill. Last year, the company received approval from the Town Council to put up a test mass to measure the amount of wind on the hill.
“This issue is not going away any time soon,” Entwistle said. “It’s kind of a contentious issue. We wanted people involved on all sides.”
The Town Council is reviewing the proposed ordinance, and will likely make changes before a vote takes place. A vote has not yet been scheduled, Entwistle said.
Salvatore, a Paris resident, said Save Sauquoit Valley Views still has concerns about the volatility of wind energy and the potential tax drain turbines could bring. Still, the group is pleased that the proposed ordinance could keep residents safe.
“This is an opportunity for people to come and learn what it’s taken us months to learn,” Salvatore said.
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