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After public hearing, outpouring of opposition to Long Island’s tallest proposed windmill

When the town board held a public hearing in mid-February on the Riverhead Sewer District’s proposal to erect what would be the tallest wind turbine on Long Island at its treatment plant off Riverside Drive, few people in the sparse audience expressed concerns. Exactly one out of five members of the public who spoke at the hearing objected.

If anything, the idea was applauded by several speakers as an environmentally “green” thing to do.

Cheers, however, have now turned to jeers.

Pursuant to the written-comment period that follows public hearings, no less than 14 residents of Riverside Drive and River Avenue have filed letters with the town clerk’s office, voicing strong objections to the planned 275-foot high structure.

They also demanded that a second public hearing be held because, many said, they hadn’t been properly notified about the first hearing on Feb. 15.

As previously reported, the proposed turbine would cost an estimated $1.8 million, to be paid for by a bond. According to Michael Reichel, superintendent of the sewer district, the energy generated by the turbine would result in an estimated $5 million savings for taxpayers in the district over the anticipated five-year life of the turbine.

“This is an example of a good idea in the wrong place,” wrote Lee Eskin of Riverside Dr. “The property values of the 80 or so taxpayers and homeowners that live in the area will plummet. Why would you want to bring this to a residential neighborhood?”

Victoria and Albert Woolley, also of Riverside Dr., expressed concerns about the constant noise the turbine would make, which, they suggested, would be “akin to jets revving up on the runway.”

John Rather of Riverside Dr. criticized the town for being less than forthright.

“Town officials know very well that residents here are intensely interested in our neighborhood. Yet for more than a year this project remained a closely kept secret,” he wrote. “This seems to be the antithesis of open government.”

He also challenged the town board’s decision to label the project as an “unlisted action,” meaning that it would not be required to undergo a full environmental review under provisions of the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act.

“How is it credible or possible for the town board to make such a determination about a project in a residential neighborhood for a 750-magawatt, 275-foot high utility-grade wind turbine that would be the tallest on Long Island?” Rather wrote. “This seems on its face to be an actionable violation of the SEQRA statute.”

Rather wrote that it would be wrong for the town to ignore the many questions that need to be answered, “and to pretend that you have given the public its fair chance to be heard.”