In a change of heart, Supervisor Sean Walter now says he would be willing to call a second public hearing on the Riverhead Sewer District’s proposal to erect a 270-foot high wind turbine at its treatment plant off Riverside Drive.
He had been resisting a second hearing, despite strong protests from residents living near the plant who argue that a public hearing on the proposal in mid-February had not be well publicized, was sparsely attended and left too many questions unanswered.
Between a Feb. 15 public hearing on the proposal and Tuesday’s town board meeting, 14 residents wrote letters to the board, 13 opposing the windmill on the record.
On Thursday Walter altered his stance, saying he would be open to another hearing – provided that at least three members of the town board expressed enough interest in the windmill proposal to move it to the next stage.
“If the town board does want to go forward with it, then I think it would be appropriate to have another public hearing,” he said. “If the town board doesn’t want to move ahead, then what’s the sense of having another hearing?”
Walter admitted that he himself has traversed a progression of thoughts about the windmill, which would be the tallest structure of its kind, by far, on Long Island. It would be expected to cost the town a maximum of $1.8 million, and a consultant working with the town said last month that the windmill would save taxpayers $5 million over its estimated 25-year life span.
“I’ve gone from thinking this was not a good idea to thinking this was a good idea because it could save a lot of money,” he said. “But now I’m on the fence, in need of much more information.”
Walter said he’ll soon make a trip with sewer district supervisor Michael Reichel to the site of several large wind turbines outside of Atlantic City to experience first-hand how much noise they make.
He also plans to visit upstate north of Oneonta with Councilman George Gabrielson to the site of several turbines there and to meet with local officials.
But noise isn’t the only concern Walter has.
“I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve heard there’s a low pulse sensation that travels through the concrete pilings that these windmills sit on,” he said. “Apparently it moves the ground, and the people who live near to it have become nauseous.”
Walter also mentioned something he called “fluttering.”
“As I understand it, when light passes through the blades, you get a fluttering effect, and that apparently is disturbing when you’re driving,” he said.
John Rather, a resident of Riverside Dr. who had sent a three-page letter to Walter detailing his many concerns, said he was “delighted” to learn that the supervisor is now open to a second hearing.
“We certainly need another public hearing,” he said. “We have many, many questions. It’s not that we’re against wind turbines, but the siting of wind turbines is very crucial.”
At the same time, he commended the town for thinking about alterative sources of energy.
“Now that Riverhead has seriously opened up the topic of wind turbines, then let’s really look at it, and what about Calverton?” he said, referring to the town-owned, 2,200 acre Enterprise Park at Calverton.
“Why not a site that’s remote enough from houses that you can’t find any problem? You can put a wind farm there and really produce some energy,” he said.
“Why not think big, instead of make the error of putting a very large turbine in the middle of a residential area when it has know impacts for that area, including the noise?” Rather asked.
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