MADISON – In nearly unanimous support, about 40 people spoke in favor of a proposed moratorium on wind energy development at a public hearing in the town of Madison among hundreds of other residents.
Following an outcry of public concern over a proposed $110 million, 36-turbine wind farm project, the town planning board proposed a one-year moratorium be enacted by the town board to alleviate immediate controversy and allow time for town regulations to be updated. The moratorium would halt the progress of the proposed wind project, currently in the application stages.
The crowd at Monday night’s hour-and-a-half-long meeting was largely in favor of the passage of a moratorium. Madison Supervisor Ron Bono said town officials will review and digest the comments submitted at a workshop to be held within the next few weeks before taking any action on the proposal.
Michael Lloyd, a Sangerfield resident, expressed concern over the impacts the impending project may have on nearby Nine Mile Swamp. He called the siting of the project “inappropriate” in its proximity to an “ecological treasure” like the swamp.
Turbines don’t belong in Central New York, he said. A wind farm, like the one that’s being proposed, will likely destroy the swamp and nearby waterways and may realize short-term gain at the expense of long-term damages.
McCormick Road Resident Earl Coleman urged town officials to pass the moratorium.
“This is a classic no brainer and I think you all know that,” he said.
Jerry Brown, of Hill Road, emphasized the need for town regulations to be reviewed and amended to take into consideration and address technological advances in the way turbines are manufactured and constructed. A moratorium “can only make this a better place for all of us to live,” he said.
Judy Brown, of Hill Road, said the town of Madison can only benefit from well thought out, long-term planning that, in particular, takes into account changes in technology. By demonstrating that residents and town officials are “serious about making Madison a good place to live,” it will only attract more residents to the area, she said.
“We’ll all benefit from your courage and leadership,” she told the town board.
Art Osborne, of Hill Road, anticipated that the installation of a project of the proposed magnitude will surely decrease neighboring property values, turning Madison’s “rolling hills” into “no man’s land.” The project’s impact will deter people from moving to the town and decrease its revenues. He questioned the certainty of tax payments wind energy companies have promised and asserted that turbines will be a permanent fixture once installed because even after they’re decommissioned, they aren’t torn down.
“Think long and hard about what we’re doing before we all regret it,” he said.
Jane Welsh, a McCormick Road resident and vocal member of the concerned citizens group Madison Matters, said she firmly supports the moratorium. Citing a letter from the project’s developer, EDP Renewables, Welsh said the moratorium won’t impact the pending project because construction isn’t anticipated to start for several years.
Town officials shouldn’t make decisions in haste, she warned, especially those that have long-term impacts. Since plans for the project have been made public, Welsh says the community has become divided. She hopes the moratorium will allow residents on each side of the debate to work “harmoniously” for the betterment of the town.
Pam Fuller, of Hill Road, expressed “unequivocal” support for the moratorium and resubmitted some 400 signatures collected by Madison Matters also in support of its enactment. Turning to the audience, she asked those in favor of the moratorium to raise their hand; nearly every person did.
She urged town and school officials to take caution when entering into agreements with energy companies over tax payments, saying that revenue is never guaranteed and could have a significant fiscal impact. She stressed the moratorium’s allowance of time for the adjustment of regulations and the understanding of the project’s impact.
David Holmes, of Hill Road, called the decision on whether or not to allow the advancement of the proposed wind farm a “major, potentially life-changing one.” He questioned how many more turbines will be added to the scope of the project once construction starts and urged the board to pass the moratorium so that the best interests of everyone can be considered.
Barbara Hipsley, of Hill Road, said the town needs more time to ensure that turbine development is “done right.”
“This is a huge decision,” she said. “There are no re-dos or do-overs. This is an opportunity to define our community.”
Unable to find even one “compelling” reason for approving the project, she said “wind power is not benign. It’s harmful to our community in so many ways.”
Don Martin, of Bonney Hill Road, said the implications of the project are “intense and long-lasting.” A moratorium will allow Madison to learn about the experiences other towns have had with wind farms and give it time to consider the impacts on people’s lives and the future of the town.
Lynne Derhammer, of Spillway Road, said a moratorium will give control back to the town boards and the people they represents. Unable to understand why anyone would object to the consideration the moratorium will provide, she said “Madison needs to be in charge of the project to protect the quality of life of every resident.”
Ron Myers said research into wind energy turned up vastly differing opinions.
“The bottom line is, I like the idea of renewable energy resources. Who wouldn’t,” he said. He called passing the moratorium a “no brainer.” He called on town officials to act with due diligence in examining their choices and weighing what residents will gain or lose. Approving the project will likely cause consequences to tax revenues, public health and property taxes. No one can say with certainty what the project’s risk factors are and “that’s the problem in a nutshell,” he said.
“How much of a gamble are you willing to make,” he asked. Reminding the town board that it is accountable to the residents, he said he is confident that officials will use the time afforded by the moratorium “wisely and prudently.”
John Blackmore, of McCormick Road, was one of the few people to speak out against the highly-vocal Madison Matters, calling their campaign “misinformation” and propaganda. He called the proposed wind farm a productive and fiscal asset to the community and one that will have few impacts on the environment, the health of residents and property values.
Pointing to the more than handful of turbines already constructed in Madison, he said the area already has wind power facilities. He contended that the increased height of turbines shouldn’t be a factor in rejecting the project but a detail to work out with the developer.
Lorna Wilson, of Lake Moraine Road in Hamilton, questioned the impacts the wind farm would have on the local economy, land value, natural resources and the community. The moratorium needs to be enacted to allow EDP time to finish its studies and prepare a complete environmental impact statement, she said.
David Sonn, of Rockwell Road, said the action is necessary in order to adjust the town’s regulations to anticipate future development and instate a proper comprehensive plan.
“This will give us time to take a deep breath and plan cautiously and carefully,” he said. “It feels good to know our town leaders are well-informed and acting in our best interests.”
Bob Deming, of East Lake Road, said he has found no valid reason to consider the project. He asserted that turbines are only built to be 30 percent effective and often only reach 10 percent effectiveness. He expressed “sympathy” for those who support the project and those in need of its financial benefits. He doubted that many of the land owners who signed property leases fully understood the agreement or consulted a lawyer.
Andrew Coddington, of Bonnie Hill Road in Hamilton, supported the moratorium and told the board that “Hamilton matters too.” Just across the street from two proposed windmill sites, he said the board’s decision doesn’t just affect Madison, but the outlying areas too.
Nancy Frey, of Purdy Road, said she moved to upstate from Long Island to get away from “cookie cutter neighborhoods” and has not taken for granted the picturesque surrounding she now enjoys. With three windmills proposed to be constructed near her home, she said she was “devastated” when she heard about the project.
“This is exactly why we moved,” he said. “We wanted to live, we didn’t want to just exist.”
She promised that if the wind farm is build, her family will move.
“I don’t believe that windmills will make our neighborhoods a better place to live,” she said.
In a tearful comment to the board, Desireye Mayne said her father leased some of his land for the original wind farm in Madison. The lease pays for his health insurance. Many of the farmers in similar situations weren’t in attendance at the meeting, most likely because they’re working hard to survive, she said. Commending the board for taking time to consider the project, she said residents need to understand the reality of the situation and its impact on farmers.
Without the income from the lease, her father would “be in big trouble,” she said. “This is personal for me.”
Having been called greedy and ignorant for her family’s decision to lease their land, particularly on Madison Matter’s website – which several members denied – Mayne said, “it’s not greed, it’s life.”