MADISON – The possible construction of 36 windmills standing almost 500 feet tall on hills in the town of Madison drew a standing room only audience to the Feb. 16 special meeting of the Madison Planning Board. The meeting was scheduled to be held in the town offices but the capacity crowd forced the board to move to the nearby fire hall for the session that last more than two hours.
If approved the 7,000 acre project, proposed by Rolling Upland Wind Farm, would be built south of Route 20, near the ones constructed in 2000 on Stone Road. These seven turbines were the first windmills constructed in the state. Construction would begin in 2015.
As the board was working through the paperwork to declare itself the lead agency for the project, the public was allowed to voice their opinions and concerns.
Leading the charge for the residents was attorney Jane Welsh who questioned why town residents were not given information on the proposed project before that time. She also listed numerous concerns that should be addressed and asked the board for better communication on the project.
In addition to questioning the maps of the project that had been submitted by the company for review and the description of the project location, Welsh requested consideration of an escrow fund to cover expenses for residents if they incur problems; said she would like wells in the area checked before, during and after construction; and would like any telecommunications issues, such as television, radio and cell receptions to be a handled by the company, and more. She also requested the board publish all information on the project, such as meetings or hearings announcements and updates, on the town’s website.
“I’m pleading with the planning board and the town board to do some things differently going forward,” she said.
After hearing and noting numerous opinions from the crowd the board unanimously declared itself the lead agency. They also declared that the project would cause a significant impact on the environment which directed the company, Horizon Wind Energy, part of Houston-based EDP Renewables North America, to complete a Detailed Environment Impact Statement (DEIS).
Officials said that public hearings will be held after the DEIS is complete and public information meetings would be held in late March or early April. Once all the information is finalized the planning board will make the decision whether or not to recommend the town board to issue a special use permit for the project.
“This is really the beginning of the project, not the end,” said Doug Ward, company attorney. “We are fully prepared to do the study and will get the information out to the public as early as possible.”