PROSPECT – The company that wants to build the first commercial wind farm in the state will see how the Connecticut Siting Council votes on its two wind projects in Colebrook before it decides whether to appeal the denial of its wind project in Prospect.
Last week, the council voted 6 to 2 to reject a proposal by BNE Energy Inc. of West Hartford, citing “substantial visual effects.” The company wanted to install two 1.6-megawatt wind turbines on a 67.5-acre parcel at 178 New Haven Road.
The council’s decision can be appealed within 45 days from the date of notification.
BNE President Gregory Zupkus said the company is reviewing its options, adding it is important to see how the council judges the Colebrook projects.
Zupkus said the council’s vote was a blow to the Prospect project, and it sends the wrong message to the wind industry. Connecticut is the only state in New England without a large commercial wind project, he said.
BNE remains encouraged with the board’s new leadership, and the remarks made by Chairman Robert Stein, who opposed denying the project. Stein stated he believes the facility would not affect public health or safety.
BNE is proposing to build six wind turbines on two sites in Colebrook. The council is expected to take up draft findings for both projects Thursday. A final vote is expected June 2 for petition No. 983, and June 9 for No. 984.
The council’s decision in the Prospect case only cited visual effects as sufficient reason to deny.
However, in its five-page opinion, the council evaluated the project on its impact on the natural environment, public health and safety, and scenic, recreational and cultural values related to quality of life. It concluded those effects are in conflict with state policies and are sufficient reason to deny the project.
Members who rejected the Prospect project cited the size of the turbines and proximity to neighbors.
In a straw vote May 2, members suggested the facility would be out of place in a residential area.
By BNE’s numbers, 51 homes are within 2,000 feet of the proposed project, and some 860 buildings, mostly homes, are within 1.25 miles. According to numbers by Save Prospect Corp., a local group opposed to the project, the project would be within .6 of a mile of 234 homes.
While the sites in Prospect and Colebrook are different, opponents to the wind farms say the issues in the Prospect case will reach north to the rural community of Colebrook.
Save Prospect Corp. President Tim Reilly said the council mainly cited the mass of the turbines and visual effects, and he would fully expect that same issue to crop up in the Colebrook case.
He has visited the sites and said beautiful homes are built on the side of a hill, and the soaring towers of the turbines is what they will look at, and listen to.
He said the council gave a denial, but missed out on strong evidence illustrating an impact to quality of life.
Attorney Nicholas Harding, who represents FairWindCT, said the council tried to craft a decision very narrowly to apply only to Prospect, but it will have meaning for Colebrook.
He said Colebrook is a much harder site than Prospect in many ways, such as BNE’s plan to fill in 10,000-square-feet of wetlands, a historic property being evaluated by the state Historic Preservation Office for effects by the turbines and about 15 to 20 homes sandwiched between the north and south sites.
The area is zoned residential, Harding said. He said Colebrook has no traffic light and no bank, and the turbines would stand taller than City Place 1, a 38-story skyscraper in Hartford.
The council concluded in the Prospect application that noise is a serious public-health concern, and the council is cautious about noise impacts to a densely-populated neighborhood close to the proposed site.
In Colebrook, the proposed turbines are much closer to properties, making the noise impact greater, Harding said.
The distance from one of the turbines to the closest abutting property line on Flagg Hill Road would be 140 feet, according to BNE’s numbers.
“Those people are going to be hammered with noise in both directions,” Harding said.
Joyce Hemingson, president of FairWindCT, said a denial on the Colebrook petitions is looking more hopeful than when the process started. The council typically has a 97 percent approval rating.
“We didn’t know what we were up against,” Hemingson said. “I think they have taken everything that is brought before them very seriously.”
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