The developers of the Black Oak Wind Farm in Enfield are withdrawing the draft supplemental environmental impact statement that was prepared to address the concerns of landowners who changed their minds after signing a contract and receiving payment to allow wind turbines on their property, said Peter Bardaglio, board president for Black Oak Wind Farm, LLC.
Frustrated by the delays encountered as they unsuccessfully tried to assuage the landowners’ objections, Bardaglio said in an a telephone interview that Black Oak is now asking the town of Enfield to use the environmental impact statement (EIS) approved by the town board in January 2015 as the basis for issuing final project approval.
“We did not by any means try to short circuit the project,” Bardaglio said, noting that the document is more than 4,000 pages long, includes the findings from 20 studies, and cost more than $500,000 to complete.
The Black Oak Wind Farm project consists of seven wind turbines capable of generating 11.9 MW on 930 acres of private leased land, primarily in Tompkins County.
The developers still need the Enfield Town Board to approve the decommissioning, landscaping, invasive species, fire and emergency, and community relations and dispute resolution plans before construction can begin.
But most people attending the Enfield Town Board meeting on September 14th did not appear to be in a hurry to move forward. About 16 community members spoke during the Privilege of the Floor segment. Objections to the project came from Enfield residents, such as Ron Riddle who said the proposed project is unsafe but did not explain why.
Another resident, Cliff Newhart said, “I’m getting corrupt smells from Enfield Center,” without elaboration.
Mimi Mehaffey expressed her support for the way the town is handling the process.
“I want to applaud you for the hard work you have been doing,” she said.
Less than a handful of the approximately 50 people in the audience expressed their support. But there are supporters, including those who do not attend the public meetings. Bardaglio stressed that the company had volunteers go door-to-door collecting about 400 signatures from those in favor of the project.
Gretchen Herman stressed, “Renewable energy is necessary with global warming. We need it for the county, the state, the country.”
John Rancich, an investor and project originator, mentioned the success of the Maple Ridge wind farm within the town of Lowville where 195 wind turbines are operating, and there are plans to add another 150 turbines.
“When you make electricity out of the wind, it is excellent for everyone,” he said, noting that the Lowville project has raised tax revenues.
But several audience members muttered their opposition to Rancich. In response, Enfield Town Supervisor Ann Rider interjected, “I ask for decorum here. When the speaker is speaking there is no undercurrent or back talk ing.”
The Enfield Town Board recessed for more than one hour during the meeting for executive session. When they returned, they began consideration of the five plans Black Oak needs the town to approve before final construction can begin.
During consideration of the decommissioning plan, Councilperson Michael Carpenter asked for reassurance in writing from Black Oak that the project has not changed since it was described in the EIS.
Marguerite Wells, Black Oak’s project manager, agreed to do this.
In response to Carpenter’s complaint that the town board had less than a week to review the decommissioning plan, Rider agreed to withdraw the resolution. But when the town began considering the landscaping plan, Carpenter again complained that the board did not have adequate time to review the plan.
Carpenter also questioned why the board is moving forward when the project owes the town monies.
“We were assessed for things we are not supposed to pay,” Wells said.
She noted that the developers paid $30,000 in August and are prepared to pay another $30,000 in September. But she would like assurances that the town board is moving forward toward issuing a permit.
Carpenter suggested that all the plans on last week’s agenda be deferred until the next regular meeting. In response, Rider reminded him that the board had had the documents for months and little had changed.
But she eventually agreed to defer consideration of the plans and her resolution to defer consideration was approved. In the intervening weeks, she plans to review the documents and paperwork to get a clear understanding of the payments Black Oak owes the town.
Carpenter said he’s likely going to want people with expertise to comment on the plans. For example, he thinks it is appropriate for the fire chief to look at the fire and emergency plan, and La Bella Associates to comment on the landscaping, invasive species, and perhaps the community and dispute resolution plans.
It’s clear that Carpenter has serious concerns about the project. What isn’t as clear is when the project will come before the Town of Enfield for a final vote.
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