RICHFIELD – Both candidates running for Town of Richfield supervisor called Tuesday for another public hearing on a proposed six-turbine wind farm that would straddle U.S. Route 20.
“The public has a right to be heard on major investments,” said Alex Shields, an independent candidate who said he believes the project has not been sufficiently aired by the Richfield Town Planning Board.
“It would be beneficial for everyone to have an open forum on it,” said Francis Enjem, who is also running as an unaffiliated independent and is facing Shields in the Nov. 8 election.
Shields is a former member of the Otsego County Board of Representatives and the county Soil and Water Conservation Board, while Enjem is a former businessman.
The Planning Board has been considering an application from Ridgeline Energy of Albany for a special-use permit, which would allow the firm to build the turbines – each 492 feet tall – on a 1,190-acre site in the northwest corner of the town.
Patrick Doyle, vice president of development for Ridgeline, told The Daily Star the project would employ 100 workers during the construction phase and pump $450,000 a year into the region’s economy annually.
The planning board held a public hearing on the wind-farm project in July. Since then some town residents have complained they did not know about the forum. Two weeks ago, they staged their own meeting, featuring a wind-energy critic who suggested the turbines could be noisy, prone to mishaps and produce little energy.
At its meeting Monday, the planning board discussed the possibility of holding an additional forum but stopped short of making that decision. Planning board member Cynthia Andela said she is open to the idea of holding an additional hearing and plans to ask fellow members of the panel when it convenes next month.
“We’re definitely interested in hearing everybody, but we’re just trying to figure out how best to do that,” she said.
Public comments on the proposed wind farm have run the gamut.
“Our sense is this is splitting the community,” Andela said. “There are those who like green energy and the economic activity it brings, and then there are those who say they moved into the area because it hasn’t changed in 100 years – and they don’t want it to change.”
Andela said if the turbines are built, they would be tied into an existing New York State Electric & Gas existing transmission line, greatly reducing the likelihood that the power industry will seek to string another transmission line through the region and reducing the possibility of future power outages. She noted she still has concerns, though, regarding the noise expected to be produced as the towering turbines harness the wind and convert it into power.
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