Pro and con, area residents came out for a public hearing Thursday morning about Huron County possibly becoming an alternative energy zone (AEZ).
Of the 65 people who attended the session in the large meeting room in the county administration building, 17 addressed Commissioners Terry Boose, Joe Hintz and Skip Wilde.
One man said he wants the board to consider the “unintended consequences” of allowing wind turbines in the Greenwich area and what might happen if they are installed and the county decides later the turbines aren’t wanted or needed.
“I just ask you to do your research,” he said.
And that’s exactly what the commissioners said they have been doing – working on gathering as much information as they can.
“We are just in an information-gathering process,” Boose said at the end of the hearing. “APEX needs to have an answer.”
The commissioner wants to gather all the public entities, including schools, to discuss the AEZ situation. Boose also said it’s possible the board may schedule another public hearing, this time at night so people who couldn’t attend Thursday’s session could share their feedback and opinions.
“This is what it’s all about,” he added.
One longtime Greenwich resident who grew up in Norwalk often wears a South Central sweatshirt with the message “no wind turbines” on the back. The man said he believes they would ruin the landscape and skyline.
“I want to get that message out to the county,” he added.
A Huron County property owner told the commissioners it’s unfair for someone else who is concerned about the skyline to have a say about what he does on his property. The man added that those residents who “don’t want to look” at wind turbines share anecdotes and data that back up their opinion.
“The biggest thing is not everyone wants to look at them,” he said.
Former Greenwich resident Valerie Malicki called herself a “wind energy refugee.” Now a North Fairfield resident, she said it’s well known that wind turbine manufacturers target uneducated and uninformed people and that APEX reportedly is the subject of many lawsuits.
Tom Yingling, who farms about 1,470 acres through Woodside Farm, said wind turbines “give us an alternative source of income,” will benefit the tax base and provide “green energy.”
“It’s a win-win,” added Yingling, who lives in Bellevue and believes the long-term environmental impact is minimal.
A Greenwich woman said an AEZ is about “being green,” but that’s not the case when the wind turbines could alter weather patterns and impact animal habitats.
“This is not a benefit for our county,” she told the commissioners.
Also, the woman said only large landowners are being approached about wind turbines, so decisions often are made by a minority of the population.
A farmer expressed his concern about the amount of underground concrete, rebar and wiring and said they might affect the water wells, which is about the same depth as the footers for the wind turbines.
“You need to give it a lot of thought,” he told the board.
Heidi Johnson encouraged the commissioners to “do what you feel like is right.” She said property values, tourism and hunting could decrease in an AEZ.
When it comes to the wind turbine industry, one man considered it the most deceptive business since “the tobacco industry of yesteryear.” He said the commissioners need to consider getting involved in an industry with a “25-year track record of failure” and that if the wind turbines are decommissioned, the concrete and rebar will remain in place.
Wilde said he and the other commissioners are doing “our due diligence” and listening to what the community has to say.
Hintz has been a commissioner for about seven years. He said “the old board was caught off-guard” with the proposition of wind turbines and an AEZ years ago, noting he and those commissioners didn’t receive any opposition from residents until much later.
“We are trying to make a difference this time around,” Hintz told the crowd. “We are trying to make an informed decision.”