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Richfield wind farm planners tweak proposal

RICHFIELD SPRINGS – One of six turbines that would be erected on a proposed wind farm bracketing U.S. Route 20 will be relocated as a result of new information that a house is expected to be constructed nearby, the lead project supervisor said Tuesday night.

“This is certainly not fatal to the project by any means,” Patrick Doyle, vice president and chief of development at Ridgeline Energy, told The Daily Star.

The Richfield Town Planning Board will meet Tuesday to again consider the company’s application for a special-use permit and decide whether to waive the need for an environmental impact statement.

Members of the Planning Board said they were surprised at their meeting Monday when they were informed that the town of Richfield had recently issued a building permit to a couple who purchased an 8-acre tract adjacent to the land where the wind farm would go.

Ridgeline’s location for one of those turbines was within the setback of 2,000 feet the company has agreed to for properties whose owners have not signed agreements with the company.

“We’re looking at relocating it a little closer to the other machines,” Doyle said. The property that has the building permit is just to the west of the wind-farm site, and so, Doyle said, the turbine in question would be moved several hundred feet to the east.

The couple that has been planning to build a house just off Cole Hill Road, Kelly Auger and Georg-ann Gigliotti, told The Daily Star that they have been paying taxes on the property for two years and voiced skepticism that neither town officials nor the company were aware of their plans.

“I’m not living next to windmills,” Auger said, noting that for 20 years he has been hoping to build on the tract deeded to him by his grandmother. He and Gigliotti said they have yet to have any discussions with Ridgeline representatives.

On Monday night, about 20 anti-turbine residents, many carrying signs opposing the project, urged the planners to reject the project, arguing it would transform the rural town’s character and leave it facing financial risks should the company go bankrupt and abandon the devices. Farmers also said the turbines would kill bats, which eat crop-ravaging insects.

Rex Seamon, a dairy farmer who opposes the wind farm and its 492-foot-tall turbines, said he feared the planners were getting ready to issue the special-use permit and allow the project to go forward.

Douglas Zamelis, a lawyer from nearby Springfield who opposes the wind farm, said the Richfield Town Board could still vote to enact a moratorium that would keep the project from going forward. He also said if the planning board issues the permit to Ridgeline, opponents of the project could challenge that action in state Supreme Court.

Ridgeline said it hopes the turbines are in use by late 2012.