MADISON – More than 150 people showed up to the town of Madison Planning Board’s public hearing on a proposed 36-turbine wind farm Wednesday, contributing almost four hours of comments.
Nearly 50 residents signed up to address the town and planning board in the first official public hearing on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed $110 million Rolling Upland Wind Farm. Comments collected at the meeting and submitted in writing will be considered as the future of the project is determined.
Those who spoke were largely against the proposed wind farm, citing what they said was failure on the part of town officials and the development company to adequately include the public in the planning of the project and consider of its potential effects on residents and the environment.
Conversely, those who were in favor of the project provided first-hand knowledge of the effects, or lack thereof, windmills have on the area’s scenery and wildlife and dispelled any suggestions that the machines cause adverse health effects, speaking from nearly a decade of exposure to turbines already in the area.
Currently Madison County has a 44-windmill population. Eleven of those are erected in the town of Madison, seven of which were the first to be commercially installed on the East Coast. The proposed wind farm would nearly double the number of turbines in the county. EDP Renewables North America, the company that owns the original Madison wind farm, is spearheading the project.
The turbines that would be constructed with this project are significantly larger, by nearly 100 feet, and those against the project say the town of Madison should not be the test site for a model of new turbine.
Madison Matters, a citizens group thats membership has grown considerably since the onset of the project, and many others have called for the town board to issue a moratorium on any new wind farms until the issue can be explored further.
Jane Welsh, of McCormick Road, has been adamantly against the project and sharply criticized the town boards and the energy company. Arguing that the project should not have made it this far before holding a public hearing, she said the planning board should have rejected EDP’s original application, saying it was incomplete and inaccurate.
She called the “process so procedurally flawed” that the board should “start over and do it right.” She demanded the public have more input.
Pamela Fuller, a Hill Road resident, agreed, saying the information presented by EDP was riddled with “insufficiency and inaccuracies.” In particular, she said maps offered in the project’s plan bore misleading and inadequate information on the population density and land use of areas where turbines are proposed. With a significant number of homes missing from plans that map out the footprint of the project, she said the company is “completely ignoring” people who will be affected.
Center Road Resident David Jordan, a third-generation landowner in the town of Madison, said living in a rural area provides a “quiet, peaceful” place to raise a family.” He worries how much noise turbines would generate.
“So much for listening to the sounds of nature,” he said.
The “long-term unavoidable impacts” of turbines are in direct contrast to what students are learning in clubs like FFA about preserving agricultural land, he said. EDP is “simply in the business to make money,” he said.
Carl Stone of McCormick Road questioned if the increase in turbines would interfere with already spotty cell phone and TV reception. He claimed that EDP has a “dismal record” of providing accurate information. The entire project should be “decommissioned” until the project includes plans to remove turbine foundations and repair roads if the wind farm is no longer in use. He said he didn’t expect a multi-million dollar corporation to care about the peace, tranquility and quality of life of Madison residents, but he expects the town officials to.
Joe Cowan, a Hamilton resident, said the “lack of concern and willingness to compromise quality of life for the financial gain of a few is shocking.”
“Big energy is now the enemy of the region,” he said.
Energy companies routinely “rape” the landscape and destroy areas “with no regard” for the people who live there, he said.
The only “respectable” option the planning board has is to enact a moratorium, he said.
Tinker Hollow Road Resident Joy Stone, who lives on a four-generation farm, can see five windmills from her home. Calling the turbines “beautiful, stately, majestic statues,” she testified that in the dozen years that they have stood 2,500 feet from her home, her family has not experienced any health problems.
David Hutchings, who lives on the same road, said the turbines have not affected wildlife. He also said since the development of the original wind farm, the roads surrounding it have been reconstructed by the energy company, greatly improving their drivability. He said the town would be “foolish” to reject the project.
Carl Stone, of Stone Road, says he knows more about turbines than most. With five of the original seven turbines on his farm – the other two are down the road – he said many of the things people are saying are false. People have been deliberately spreading misinformation about the project, he said.
He agreed with others that said, in the last 12 years, he has not witnessed any harm to people or wildlife. He disagreed with claims that the noise of the turbines is distracting, saying they create a “gentle woosh,” not a “roar” and are drowned out completely by the sound of the wind in the trees on most days.
Recognizing that peoples’ opinions on their appearance is based on personal preference, he said comparing them to skyscrapers is ridiculous. “That’s like comparing a flagpole to a silo,” he said.
People have a right to be upset that the picturesque view from their property may be changed by the turbines, but he pointed out they may own their property but they don’t own the view.
“Things change,” he said.
Just like a resident couldn’t prevent his neighbor from cutting down a line of trees he has enjoyed, residents shouldn’t stop the wind farm.
“This whole thing is my fault,” Bonnie Stone of Stone Road said jokingly.
Having been a part of the original wind farm, Stone said she has never heard a negative comment about the area’s turbines until this project was proposed. The area “embraced” the two previous projects without any “concerned citizens” trying to stop them, she said, referring to Madison Matters.
“Didn’t Madison matter to them before?” she asked.
She questioned why the group is suddenly concerned about turbines’ health effects, which she said don’t exist. Noise complaints aren’t valid either, she said. She described the machines’ sound as a “gentle swish” and are often inaudible.
Comments can be submitted in writing until May 18 and can be sent to the:
Town of Madison Planning Board
P.O. Box 66
Madison, NY 13402
The DGEIS is available for review on the town’s website at:
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