Development of new windmill regulations drew a standing room only crowd to North East Township Supervisors’ April 1 meeting.
The township currently permits windmills to be erected township-wide as a conditional use, zoning administrator Susan Sprague said.
“This meeting is not to get into what Pioneer Green Energy plans to do with (a planned project on Sidehill Road); its purpose is to set new regulations for wind farms. We will try to come up with a good ordinance and maps.”
The revised regulations developed by the North East Township Planning Commission, whose members sat in on the meeting, call for increased setbacks from property lines. Wind farms would primarily be located along the ridge.
Proposed boundaries are from south of Sidehill Road to the Greenfield Township line and from Shadduck Road and Findley Lake Road south to Greenfield. The eastern and western boundaries would be New York State and Harborcreek Township. A central corridor along Route 89 is carved out to allow for commercial development, Sprague outlined.
The township’s current regulations require a 500-foot setback from all property lines. The proposed regulations distinguish between lands leased to a wind farm and non-participating properties.
On wind farm lands, the proposed regulations move setbacks to 550 feet from property lines and to 1.1 times the hub height away from residences on leased lands.
On non-participating properties, the setback increases to 5 times the hub height, or 1,500 feet if the 500-foot high windmills planned by Pioneer Green Energy are used.
Pioneer Energy’s explorations in the township will be the subject of a public hearing if and when conditional use permits are sought, Sprague said.
The Sidehill Road plans however, were the subject of most of the resident comments at the hearing.
The majority of speakers at the two-hour event spoke against turbines being located in North East, citing concerns about economic feasibility, noise, effect on property values, groundwater, and wildlife, as well as the effects on air traffic. Lighting on the windmills and shadow flicker from the blades was also cited.
One resident suggested that royalties from the installations be shared with adjacent landowners to help mitigate impact; another asked why small landowners in the Sidehill Road area were not contacted by the company.
Planners were also urged to require wind farm developers to let the township know about ownership or lease changes; others cautioned that the township should not tie the hands of homeowners who want to put up their own windmills.
Obtaining adequate bonding was another concern. “I can’t find this company’s financials anywhere,” John Pero said. “Whoever does this should have money set aside.” Wind energy opponents have scheduled an information session for this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at McCord Memorial Library.
Two residents stated that they have already signed leases with Pioneer Green Energy.
“We spent 7-8 months with the attorneys. Many of these issues are addressed in our leases,” Tim Burch of Sidehill Road said. “The ultimate goal is to have GE make the turbines. Benefits include that the neighbors can sign and can get royalties and not have windmills on their property.”
“Wind energy around the country has been friendly to agriculture,” resident Roger Schultz of Sidehill Road said. “They protect us from development. Many farms have been turned into subdivisions; before long you don’t have a viable mass anymore.”
Other residents asked supervisors to protect the township’s “view shed” and not do what they want.
“We don’t have opinions here,” Supervisor August Neff said. “What we’re doing tonight is fact finding.” He added that the community consists of 6,500 residents, not just the people attending the hearing.
Supervisor Vernon Frye noted that supervisors went to the Sheldon, N.Y. wind farm and talked to that community’s supervisors, stood under a turbine and talked to nearby residents. “This isn’t about what I want or don’t want.”
North East planners used Greenfield and Venango townships’ wind farm regulations as guides in preparing the draft regulations presented, officials said.
No action was taken on the proposed regulations.
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