COLEBROOK – BNE Energy’s plan to build a wind farm in rural Colebrook is running into strong opposition by some residents. One potential neighbor has taken her case to the Connecticut Siting Council, seeking the rejection of the plan.
Robin L. Hirtle, who lives at 29-A Flagg Hill Road in Colebrook, filed a petition with the Connecticut Siting Council for party status on Dec. 11. According to the petition, filed by her attorney, Richard T. Roznoy of East Granby, BNE Energy has been accessing Hirtle’s property to reach their parcel of land. There is a mutual easement in place affecting both BNE Energy and Hirtle, stating that it “shall be limited to residential use exclusively.”
According to the Connecticut Siting Council, party status can be conferred on “any person whose legal rights, duties or privileges will be specifically affected by the Council’s decision.” Once a person is named a party, they will be added to the list of participants in the process, stretching from pre-hearing conferences to final schedule. The council’s procedures, as well as when members of the public and applicants can and cannot participate, are available on their Web site at ct.gov/csc.
Due to the use of Hirtle’s property to access their property, in addition to other concerns relating to her property, Hirtle has applied to the Connecticut Siting Council seeking not only consideration in the application, but “in general, denial of BNE’s Petition for construction, maintenance and operation of the facility.” The Connecticut Siting Council has the final word on the facility because the proposed wind turbines will generate more than one megawatt of energy – 1.6 megawatts per turbine, according to the application.
BNE Energy has proposed an access road to their Flagg Hill Road parcel, but according to Hirtle’s petition, the proposal was not in place when BNE Energy proposed a test tower. The petition claims that “this proposal for a new access road is a subversion of the process for permit authority of a Connecticut town,” adding that Hirtle has allegedly been denied due process.
Although the plan for the test tower was approved by Colebrook officials, Hirtle contends that it called for a driveway closer to the proposed access road. Once construction of the tower began, though, Hirtle alleges that BNE Energy used her driveway, “contrary to the restrictions of the easement.”
Other allegations made in the application include violating a wetlands and conservation easement, “which was addressed when the mutual driveway easement was created,” as well as noise and safety concerns. The latter points were raised by several residents during an informational meeting presented by BNE Energy Nov. 10 at Colebrook Town Hall.
BNE Energy claimed that the turbines would exceed Colebrook’s electrical demand, running at an average of 30 percent of capacity. Additionally, the turbines, which will be built on two parcels of land on opposite sides of U.S. Route 44, would immediately become one of Colebrook’s largest taxpayers, potentially lowering the mill rate by 2.5 mills.
The concerns voiced about the windmills at the meeting revolved not around the turbines themselves, but their location. As they will be placed in a largely residential area, neighboring residents were worried about the noise, turbine blades – the windmills will be approximately 100 meters tall, most likely using 41-meter blades – and flickering.
“I’m all for solar,” said Eva Villanova – who owns land near the proposed parcels – after the meeting. “But I don’t want to live with the noise, flickering and ice shedding.”
The fate of the wind farm will not be decided until January 6, 2011 at the earliest. As Linda Roberts, executive director of the Connecticut Siting Council, stated in letters sent to Winchester mayor Candy Perez, Colebrook First Selectman Thomas McKeon and Norfolk First Selectman Susan Dyer, the Connecticut Siting Council cannot act on petitions until 30 days after their receipt.
Roberts stated in the letters that the petition will be added to the council’s next meeting’s agenda .
Roberts acknowledged Dec. 20 that the Council received correspondence from the Colebrook Planning and Zoning Commission’s Dec. 16 meeting regarding BNE Energy’s petitions. John Garrels, Colebrook planning and zoning chairman, requested a public hearing in Colebrook regarding the petitions “so that full attention and focus can be provided on the widespread implications that the pending petitions create.
“Each presents not only several potential violations of the town’s zoning regulations,” Garrels wrote, “but also contradicts both the spirit and intent of the state-mandated Plan of Conservation and Development, as approved in 2006.”
Garrels also requested that the Connecticut Siting Council impose a moratorium “until appropriate standards and regulations have been established by yourselves, and at the state and local level.” The project will be one of the first of its kind in Connecticut, as BNE Energy is also working on a concurrent wind farm in Prospect.
The council has several nearby projects on their docket, including proposed “telecommunications facilities” – cellular towers – in Falls Village and Hartland, as well as a contentious plan for a tower in Cornwall. Several residents took umbrage with the conduct of Caruso during a July 20 hearing, alleging Caruso ignored the concerns of residents who live near the proposed tower. However, the council – which approves 96 percent of applications, according to Cornwall First Selectman Gordon Ridgeway – signed off on the proposed tower, which will be located on Bell Road Extension.
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