PARISHVILE – An informational meeting this week hosted by developers of the 40-tower North Ridge Wind Farm proposal for Parishville and Hopkinton is getting mixed reviews for their presentation and their frankness.
“A lot of it was misleading or outright false information,” said Wayne Miller, an activist opposed to “industrial wind power” and former Ogdensburg Public Library director who now lives in Malone.
But Town Supervisor Rodney Votra felt the June 15 session was worthwhile. “Iberdrola answered the questions they were asked. It was an information meeting,” he said.
“I was able to do some exit interviews, and people said they were able to get some of their questions answered,”
The 100-megawatt North Ridge Wind Farm is moving up on Iberdrola Renewables’ development list, but the project is still years from completion said Iberdrola Communications Manager Paul Copleman, and he could give no firm start date.
About a dozen people representing Atlantic Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, set up posters and stations to field questions face-to-face from attendees who wanted to know more about the pros and cons of the North Wind proposal.
“I like the way they had it set up, instead of a formal meeting, but some people didn’t. We were able to meet them one-on-one,” said Fred Wilhelm, a land surveyor and Town Planning Board chairman.
“Everyone I talked to, on both sides, had done their homework, and had maps, brochures and books,” Wilhelm said. “A lot of information we were getting is from outside” the town.
Miller said he felt that the information they were getting from Atlantic Wind was “the standard low-level boilerplate information that was not specific to this project. And they said things like, ‘No, it does not affect land values,’ or ‘No, we haven’t signed leases, we’re not that far along.’ Whenever we asked hard or detailed questions, we got, ‘Oh, that’s not my area of expertise.’”
“Small-scale works,” – a backyard windmill, for instance – “but industrial wind is a whole other industry. It’s an investment mechanism.”
Votra said he was not prepared to offer an opinion on the proposal. He knows that there are landowners who are considering taking the company up for the thousands of dollars a year they could get with wind generators on their land, just as there are those concerned about the sight and sound of the windmills and the suspected damage the blades do to bird and bat populations.
“As supervisor, in my own mind, my place is to facilitate all the information, from Iberdrola or somebody else, for them to come in and present their information, for or against,” he said. “Through their comments and questions, addressed to me and to the board, is how I’ll make my decision” on the issue.
“I think everyone that was there, for or against, really were just trying to present the version of information they had,” Votra said.
He estimated that there were about 30 people in the upstairs room at Town Hall at any given moment, with people moving in and out all the time. It was hot in the room, and many people went outside for some relief.
Town Clerk Connie Maguire said she thought about 100 people in all attended, including about 12 representatives from Atlantic Wind and government leaders from both Parishvile and Hopkinton.
Some people had complained that they only heard about the “open house” at the last minute. Maguire said that she had posted a notice of the meeting on the town’s home page at least a week beforehand and had taken out two newspaper legal ads.
Wilhelm said after looking at the area in Hopkinton where generator sites could be planned, the Planning Board had “suggested one area, in the northeast corner of Parishville, as a ‘wind zone,’” near where Hopkinton’s proposed generator field was, and that it was incorporated into Parishville’s zoning.
“We saw that other townships around the state were writing regulations for those zones, and the town board adopted it,” Wilhelm said.
He said he has heard “very little negative feedback from townspeople in that zone.”
Votra said he asked the company representatives for another information session soon.
Rather than the poster and chatting format of last week’s meeting, “I requested a presentation before questions and answers, and I offered to be mediator.” They agreed, Votra said, but no date has been set yet.
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