PROSPECT – — More than 200 residents packed a public hearing Wednesday night that could determine whether two 492-foot wind turbines will be built on a 67-acre wooded tract at 178 New Haven Road in Prospect.
More than 50 people signed up to speak at the hearing held by the Connecticut Siting Council, which has sole authority over the siting of electric-generating facilities, including wind farms.
At issue is the fate of a proposal filed by BNE Energy Inc. that would allow the wind developer to begin construction of Connecticut’s first commercial wind project. The nine-member siting council is expected to issue a decision about the project in May.
Council Chairman Daniel Caruso explained the rules of the hearing to a restive and sometimes vocal audience, reminding participants that the council doesn’t have the authority to put a moratorium on the project. “Only the General Assembly can impose a moratorium,” Caruso said.
“This council is not the proponent of this project. We are here merely to decide whether it meets the legal requirements,” Caruso cautioned.
State Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, a proponent of alternative energy sources, spoke against the project.
“The presumption was that wind projects would be sited on a ridgeline or off-shore, not near residences,” said Nardello, a member of the General Assembly’s energy and technology committee, which is drafting a bill that could halt any wind farm projects until regulations specific to the siting of wind projects have been devised.
Richard Calabro described himself as “living 2,500 feet from ground zero.”
“I moved here 38 years ago to enjoy the sounds of nature, serenity,” he said. “I never thought it would be any different. And then came BNE to build these enormous wind turbines.”
Like many other residents, Calabro was concerned about noise from the turbine blades and property values. “Who would want to buy a … home 2,500 feet from a 490-foot tower?” Calabro asked.
The hearing, which was held at Prospect’s Long River Middle School, was punctuated by an angry outburst when a Prospect property owner, and a supporter of the project voiced his approval.
“I wish to express my support for the project,” Victor Visockis told the council. “It’s away from residences and close to the grid.”
His comments were interrupted by an angry resident who repeatedly shouted, “You don’t live over there!”
Caruso threatened the man with ejection unless he stopped his outbursts.
Earlier in the day, eight members of the nine-member siting council toured the proposed wind farm site. The ninth member, Philip Ashton, was in Bermuda, said Linda Roberts, the council’s executive director.
Council members were greeted by about 30 protesters who had gathered at the entrance to BNE’s property, the site of the proposed wind farm. About 20 accompanied council members on the tour which involved a trek down a sloping, tree-lined hill. Greg Zupkus, one of BNE’s founding partners, led the group down the snow-covered slope toward the proposed sites of the two wind turbines, the first located about 800 feet from the entrance of the property.
About 1,500 feet from the top of the embankment a yellow and black sign indicated the site of what would be the second 492-foot turbine. Its location was deep in the woods, far away from any residences. But Mark Fortier, a Prospect resident, who ventured onto the property for the first time said, “Though you get the impression it’s far away – Route 69 and one residence are about 800 feet away. I want to know how close it is to that one house and the road. My question is still how safe is it really?”
The Connecticut Siting Council’s second hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Long River Middle School, 30 Columbia Ave. in Prospect.
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