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Wind turbine project moves forward in Richfield

The Town of Richfield Planning Board passed a resolution issuing a special use permit allowing a wind turbine project to move forward. Some residents are questioning whether or not the vote was legal.

The wind turbine project has been in the works in Richfield for a few years now. The developers, Ridgeline Energy, want to build six 492 foot tall wind turbines on Route 20.

After going through the resolution page by page and debating whether or not the project complies with the standards required to issue a special use permit, the planning board voted 4 to 1 to pass the resolution and issue the permit.

One board member, Janet Sylvester, voted against the project. Sylvester found fault with nearly every standard discussed during the meeting. She believes the project is not right for the town.

The other board members justified their decision to approve the project, saying it will benefit the community.

Several dozen residents were at the meeting and were strongly opposed to the resolution.

“I think it was pretty obvious to me that the three town planning board members that voted to approve this project haven’t changed their minds since day one,” said Larry Frigault, Richfield resident. “They want this project. They believe the benefits outweigh the negative effects it’s going to have on the people that are going to live within the project footprint.”

“It’s not a popularity contest,” said Planning Board Member Cynthia Andela. “This has to do with weighing the facts and trying to stay objective and do the right thing based on the facts in front of us.”

Residents who filled the cafeteria at the Richfield Springs School were shouting out and making comments throughout the entire meeting. At times calling the board members liars for some of the information they were discussing.

Residents were also shouting out that they thought the board members were being paid off to pass the resolution and were somehow benefiting from the project.

Planning Board Member Andela said she is in no way benefiting from the project, she is just going by the regulations she is required to follow and she believes approving the project is best for the community. Andela says the money generated by the project outweighs the negatives.

The developer thought the size of the project was a good fit for the community.

“We thought that a six turbine project where the turbines would be located right beside the marcy south line close to an existing high pressure gas line and on farm land. So it’s really going to help the farmers and also put money into the community,” said Patrick Doyle, Vice President of Ridgeline Energy.

Doyle says the next step is to make sure the company can comply with all of the provisions in the resolution before moving forward. Construction on the project could begin in April or May of 2014.

While the board was voting at the meeting residents presented paperwork questioning the legality of the one of the votes.

The lawyers for the town and the planning board said to continue with the vote and they would look into the legal issue Tuesday morning.