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Banning turbines in Litchfield maintains town’s ‘well-being’

After a week on vacation, Litchfield resident Pat Christensen cherishes the moment she can step through the door and breathe a sigh of relief – she’s home.

“That feeling has to stay here,” said Christensen, spokeswoman for Litchfield United.

If industrial wind turbines set up shop in her community, however, she said they’d be destroying a community that is “so peaceful and relaxing.”

In a 4-1 vote Thursday night the Litchfield Town Board passed a local law that will ban construction of industrial wind turbines.

Councilman Mark O’Sullivan, who headed the committee that drafted the Wind Energy Facilities Law, said the council wants to keep the residential community the way it is, and limit industrial turbines to industrial areas.

“The main driving force (for the law) was the well-being of the community,” he said.

Councilman Jeff Smith, the only member to vote against the law, said he did so because he feels it takes away the rights of landowners.

“It’s their land, they should be able to do what they want to their own land,” he said.

Among the 36 pages of the law document, concerns of the impact of these turbines included:

* Aesthetic woes because of their large size, noise, lighting and shadow flicker effects

* Disruption of the rural landscape which is part of the town’s history

* Improper construction of the turbines possibly causing erosion or damage to farm fields

* Traffic problems and road damage

While the law bans industrial turbines, O’Sullivan made note that smaller, domestic powered turbines 120 feet in height or less at 50 kilowatts is permitted.

Angela Martin, a member of Litchfield Residents for Wind Energy, said she worries about what type of precedent this law could set.

“If we start looking at what goes on in this town and start limiting noise for those industries, how would the businesses be able to operate?” Martin questioned, noting that the stone quarry’s operations wouldn’t meet the noise standards the law places on turbines.

In the end it boiled down to the financial aspect, however, Christensen and O’Sullivan both noted.

While the turbines have a 25 year life expectancy, to pay them off will take double that time, Christensen said.

“My kids will be strapped with the financial burden,” she said.

During O’Sullivan’s research, he said he came across data that said the wind turbines were about 30 percent efficient.

“We want to be part of a better solution,” he said. “We should not have to accept anything but the best that technology can provide.”