SOMERSET – Residents packed the town hall for Wednesday evening’s Town Board meeting, many voicing concerns about a proposed wind energy project in the town.
The project, known as Lighthouse Wind and proposed by Apex Clean Energy, is in its preliminary stages, with the company filing a public involvement program in the fall. The first stage of the proposal involved the company speaking with property owners in the town to gauge interest.
Apex first approached the town two years ago. At the time, Somerset was the only town being looked at. Apex is now looking at the Town of Yates as well.
The proposed project was not on the Town Board’s meeting agenda.
Numerous residents spoke in opposition to the project, bringing up health related issues as well as declining property values, should the proposal move forward.
John Wolanyk, a farmer on Haight Road, said he declined to sign a contract with Apex after researching wind energy.
“I was very upset by what I saw,” he said, noting that there are sites across the globe where residents are unhappy with wind energy projects.
Wolanyk asked the board to research wind energy before the project moves forward, receiving applause when he mentioned that he wasn’t going to sign the contract with Apex.
“I don’t want to look out my window and see 570-foot windmills,” he said. “And to hear it? I don’t want it.”
Somerset Drive resident Christine Bronson brought up the “bucolic” setting of Somerset, saying that the wind project would destroy the reason many have moved to the town. Bronson also brought up the noise wind turbines make, saying that she would be “upset” hearing it.
“When I come through Amherst and Williamsville and come north to the lake, I say to myself, ‘it’s worth the drive, it’s worth the time to come here,'” she said. “It’s quiet and when I get home, I get on the lake, and I hear loons and I hear tree frogs and I hear beautiful things.”
Eric Wayner said he was born and raised in the community, and attended Barker High School. He brought his family back to the area for the peace and quiet it offers. His worry, he said, is that one farmer in the town signing a lease with Apex could impact multiple families in the area.
“I’m against these windmills in any way, shape or form,” he said.
After the meeting, Supervisor Dan Engert stressed that the proposal is not a town project. Under New York State’s Article 10, energy companies generating 25 megawatts of electricity or more go through the state for the siting process, essentially removing local municipalities from the site selection process. A representative from the town, nominated by Engert, would sit on the siting board.
“It’s a private developer having conversations with private citizens,” he said. “There is no action to be taken by the town.”
The town’s role, Engert said, is to facilitate a conversation about the project and provide information so residents can make an informed decision.
“We’re very interested in what our constituents have to say,” he said, noting that there is some misinformation circulating on the project.
As the project is in its preliminary stages, the board members are still in the process of looking into wind energy, Engert said.
“We have to do our homework and our due diligence,” he said.
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