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Liberty mulls zoning to build wind farms

LIBERTY – A study identifying three sites in Liberty as potentially suitable for a community-owned wind-energy project is spurring talk of new zoning rules.

Supervisor Charlie Barbuti recommended the town consider guidelines to cover wind energy at Liberty’s May 7

Town Board meeting.

The board met one day after the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development held a public forum to review four sites identified in an ongoing study of suitable places for a wind farm.

“I came away from the (community) meeting thinking it’s something that would be important,” Barbuti said. “We don’t address geothermal; we don’t address solar; we don’t address the new technologies.”

Sullivan Alliance invited residents to the Liberty Senior Center on May 6 to unveil one site on Thunder Hill Road in Grahamsville and three Liberty sites that might be viable for a wind farm.

The areas in Liberty include Walnut Mountain Park, a ridge just north of Old Loomis Road, and another ridge east of Route 17 near Tanzman Road.

The ongoing study is being funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Part of the funding is being used to identify shovel-ready sites that might be ideal for a small wind farm. A 5.4-megawatt farm could generate $1.4 million in revenues, according to SASD’s presentation. The study envisions such a system owned by local groups or by municipalities.

“It would be like having a town that sits on the oil well,” Barbuti said. “We’re going to need other revenue streams other than raising our property taxes.”

One of the anticipated hurdles was opposition by property owners. But several owners of property in one of the Liberty areas attended the forum and voiced support for the idea.

Don Nichols is enthusiastic about having a wind farm on his 15-acre parcel, which is located on Tanzman Road in Parksville. He shares that enthusiasm with nearby property owners.

“It would help the community and it would help with electric rates,” he said.