September 11, 2013

Wind ordinance hearing draws big crowd in North East

By VALERIE MYERS, Erie Times-News | September 11, 2013 |

NORTH EAST – More than 150 people crowded into the North East Township Municipal Building on Tuesday night to support or share their concerns about proposed regulations for commercial wind farms.

Neighboring property owners said that the regulations aren’t strict enough to keep large wind turbines well away from their homes and property lines, and that a commercial wind farm being developed by Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy will decrease property values and cause noise, vibration, shadow flicker and ice throw.

Setbacks in a proposed ordinance to regulate commercial wind farms aren’t sufficient to protect neighbors from the effects of large turbines, Matt Putman, of Neighbors for a Responsible North East, said.

“The only protection that neighbors have from these adverse effects is their distance from the turbines,” Putman said. “These setbacks aren’t large enough.”

The township’s proposed wind ordinance would require turbines to be set back from neighboring homes by a distance at least five times the turbine’s hub height – or 1,375 feet for a 275-foot turbine. Turbines would be set back from neighboring property lines by a distance at least 1.75 times the turbine’s total height, including its blades – or 787.5 feet for a 450-foot turbine.

Turbines would be permitted in a district roughly bounded by Interstate 90, Townline Road and the New York State line, excluding the Route 89 corridor.

Property owners that have leased land for the wind farm said that stricter regulations would regulate the development out of North East Township, and that the wind farm would provide clean, renewable energy while providing extra income that could help them continue to operate family farms.

“If a wind farm helps these people continue to farm and prevent farms from becoming subdivisions one day, approve it,” Chris Orton told supervisors.

Pioneer Green Energy in May 2011 confirmed plans to build 50 to 75 commercial wind turbines in North East and neighboring townships. The company has since whittled its plans to eight to 12 turbines due to uncertainty about federal subsidies for wind energy development, project developer Johnny Walker said.

North East Township supervisors are expected to vote on the proposed wind ordinance Monday during a 9 a.m. business meeting at the township municipal building, 10300 W. Main Road.

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