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Wind farm planners tell Richfield Springs another hearing not necessary

RICHFIELD SPRINGS – An attorney for a company seeking to erect a wind farm on both sides of Route 20 advised the Richfield Town Planning Board Monday night that it is not required to hold an additional public hearing on the project.

Doug Ward, the lawyer for Ridgeline Energy of Albany, said that under the state Environmental Quality Review Act, a second public forum on the proposed six-turbine wind generation project isn’t necessary. The board held one hearing on the project – in July.

Ward later told The Daily Star he was not advocating one way or another on whether the public should be allowed to sound off again.

“It’s their decision,” he said of the board. “It’s not something the law requires.”

The Planning Board agreed to extend for 30 days its review of the company’s application for a special-use permit needed to build the development on a site consisting of approximately 1,190 acres of land in the northwestern section of the Town of Richfield.

A project foe, Douglas Zamelis, a lawyer who resides in nearby Springfield, suggested Ridgeline Energy is trying to ram the project forward without being required by the planning board to produce a time-consuming environmental impact statement.

“They want to get this approved as soon as possible,” Zamelis said. “If the planning board does not require the applicant to complete an environmental impact statement, all they are really doing is cutting the public out of the process. I can see the potential for lawsuits.”

Walt Kalina, a consultant to the planning board, said that the project has drawn a wide range of comments from citizens, many of whom wrote to say they support it.

Kalina and one of the board members, Cynthia Andela, met last week with a leading opponent of wind farms, Jonathan Knauth, who argues wind power is among the most expensive forms of energy.

Kalina advised the board those issues are outside the scope of its evaluation.

“I don’t believe we’re in a position to decide energy policy,” he said.

The company said it hopes to switch on the six 492-foot turbines by late 2012. All told, they’d have a generating capacity of 18.45 megawatts.