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Decision nears on Richfield wind project

RICHFIELD – Major decisions could be nearing about a proposed six-turbine wind project along Route 20 in the town of Richfield.

Ridgeline Energy, a Seattle-based company also proposing projects in the Herkimer County town of Litchfield and Otsego County town of Maryland, is behind the potential 18.45-megawatt Monticello Hills Wind project in Richfield. The wind turbines would be 492 feet tall.

The Richfield Planning Board met Monday night and delayed its votes on the project, but the votes could come instead at a meeting scheduled for next week, board Chairman Donald Urtz said.

“We’re getting to the point where we need to make a decision,” Urtz said.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at the Richfield Town Hall at 18 E. James St. The Planning Board has to decide whether the project would have significant environmental impacts under a State Environmental Quality Review.

If the board determines there are significant impacts, a more extensive environmental review would be required. If not, the board could then vote on whether to grant a special-use permit for the project.

Richfield is about a 30-mile drive to the southeast from Utica. The town is located in Otsego County – just outside of Herkimer County.

Ridgeline Energy is part of Veolia Environnement, which is headquartered in France. Patrick Doyle, vice president of development for Ridgeline Energy could not be reached Tuesday.

The application for the special-use permit was submitted to the Richfield Planning Board in March this year, according to the Ridgeline Energy website. At the July meeting, studies conducted during the past two years were presented and submitted, according to the site.

The project would create some permanent operation and maintenance jobs and additional jobs during construction. It also is expected provide financial benefits to landowners and the town, school district and county, according to the site. Urtz said the host-community compensation agreement would still have to be negotiated.

Richfield Springs resident Larry Frigault, who owns a home and land about a mile from the proposed-turbine site, said he is opposed to the project. It would be easier to deal with if he believed the real goal was producing green energy, but he thinks it’s really more about tax breaks for the company, he said.

There aren’t too many people who live near the proposed site, Frigault said, but he and many others are more than concerned about the project causing noise, visual impacts, changes to property values and possible health effects.

“We all kind of like our rural, rolling hills,” he said.

Urtz said many issues brought up by residents – such as noise, light flicker, ice buildup, effects on animals and road damage – have been addressed during the review process.

“We’ve had a lot of input from the public, and they have some real serious concerns,” Urtz said. “I feel we’ve answered all their concerns.”