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Survey says: No wind farms in Somerset

SOMERSET – With the results of a residential survey lighting his way, town Supervisor Daniel Engert released a statement Wednesday indicating he’ll actively oppose siting of a commercial wind farm in the town.

Recently, Apex Clean Energy submitted a public involvement plan with New York State Public Service Commission expressing its interest in developing a commercial wind energy project in Somerset and neighboring Yates. The PSC, not the towns, would decide whether to permit an Apex facility if the company applied.

Late last month, the Somerset town board authorized a townwide survey of residents/property owners to gauge their support or opposition of an Apex project, which could consist of up to 70, 570-foot-tall wind turbines.

Completed surveys were due Tuesday and, according to Engert, 64 percent of respondents said they’re strongly opposed.

More than 1,100 surveys were sent out and 644, or 56 percent, were returned. Full results of the seven-question survey, which sought to measure attitudes about commercial facilities based on the number, height and proximity of turbines, and possible financial benefits for property owners, are to be posted on the town’s website by next Monday.

Engert said he’s satisfied the results are an accurate reflection of community feeling about the Apex proposal, so he’s going to do the community’s will and oppose the proposal.

“I will do everything in my power to oppose the siting of commercial wind turbines in Somerset and to carry (the residents’) message throughout the process,” he said.

Engert will be a member of the special committee that the town board called up to examine the town’s existing wind turbine siting law and recommend additional restrictions and conditions in light of evolving technology and new research findings.

That 14-resident committee, which is being assembled now from representatives of town and village government, the Barker school district, the local historical society, farm and fisheries advocates, Save Ontario Shores Inc. and Apex Clean Energy, is to begin meeting no later than July 24 and present its findings to the town board by next February.

Of the committee, Engert said, “We are very mindful that we are working with a local law that is over a decade old, and we will try not to be burdensome as we get our voice out there to be heard.”

Some restrictions and conditions that the committee will look at are minimum setbacks, closeness of turbines to houses, turbine height and the property values of houses where turbines may be placed.

“We are looking into whether or not we can mitigate property values if a wind project is sited in the town,” Engert said.

The supervisor said he will also call on state leaders to demand commercial wind turbines not be placed within Somerset – and help restore local rule in the energy facilities siting process.

Since revision of the state’s Article X law in 2011, permitting of large-scale energy generation facilities is by the PSC through a seven-member siting board which is composed of five state-appointed members and two representatives of the affected community.