BARRE – Filling the seats and lining the walls, residents filled the Barre Town Board on Wednesday night to have their voices heard regarding the Heritage Wind project.
Sitting in front of the Barre Town Board, Kerri Richardson, president of Clear Skies Above Barre, gave a 25 minute presentation stressing for the town board at the very least and to not use the Cassadaga wind project, which is located in Chautauqua County and went through the Article 10 process, as their sole wind ordinance reference because Barre and Cassadaga have different studies, different topography, a different developer and a different community in whole.
She said when they ask for setbacks, they’re not saying this just because they don’t want the project here – they’re saying it because they want to protect their neighbors and the community from the downsides of industrial wind turbines.
“We feel that in reality we shouldn’t have a wind ordinance per se, but just have industrial zoning laws and the developer will have to abide by those laws,” Richardson said, adding Barre should look at the World Health Organization 2018 guidelines. The new study recommends there not be properties closer to 39 dBA Leq to a windmill, and said while she doesn’t know how far that actually means, the town should utilize their experts like LaBella who could figure out what was appropriate.
Supervisor Sean Pogue said he agreed regarding the recommendations from the World Health Organization, but asked for peer reviewed empirical data for the claims that wind turbines cause health issues. Councilman Tom McCabe said the town board is thankful for the information given to them.
However, the town board caused upset among the audience when they passed the resolution No. 3 which stated no changes shall be made to the current wind energy law.
Richardson expressed her disappointment in the democratic process, saying Clear Skies Above Barre was provided the opportunity to share their concerns and was requested for further information.
“Yet immediately following our presentation, a resolution – that was pre-written – was read that showing in reality it didn’t matter what I said tonight,” she said, her voice breaking. “It didn’t matter what was presented to you as a town board, and you may say, ‘Oh I recognize and we appreciate all your studies’ but your actions say you don’t care and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make a difference what we’re sharing with you.”
Richardson said she is someone who loves the democratic process and a resolution was made and passed without any discussion; she said discussion is the most important part because it allows residents to know where the board’s thoughts are and their reasoning and the town board handed over Barre’s decision to the state. She also said Barre should be negotiating now.
Iva McKenna said Barre was so thrilled and impressed how the whole area turned out for someone who was confused, lost and having a hard time, but wasn’t it just as sad if Barre as a community if one person being affected by the World Health Organization’s recommendations being ignored. She asked the town board if they could guarantee nobody in the community would lose property value.
Pogue responded saying yes, some people would get a large percentage by having the wind turbines on their property, but the board is looking out for the community and everyone would benefit monetarily as well. He said he read two reports that property values stayed the same or increased.
“Furthermore, talking to our assessor, we’ve had homes sold in our community,” Pogue said. “It is not a secret that there has been talk of wind turbines coming into our town. Guess what? Those homes are selling for more. They haven’t gone down in price.”
One resident who recently moved to Barre from Batavia said they didn’t know about the Heritage Wind project. She asserted the board already had made their decision and said they should have at least faked it like they cared.
“I resent the fact that you think we haven’t considered everything that has been said for the last 14 meetings and the same thing that has been said over and over and over,” said Councilman Richard Bennett. “This isn’t over yet – just because the board decided we didn’t want to change the law doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned of the health and welfare of everyone in this community. It’s just that you can’t argue with unreasonable people.”
As of March last year, a total of 12,000 acres in Barre are currently leased and Heritage Wind is hoping to put up 47 windmills in the town, although the preliminary scoping statement only shows 31 sites.
It’s estimated the Heritage Wind project would generate approximately $1.5 million in annual tax revenue for towns, counties, schools, and public services. Landowner lease payments will total more than $1 million per year over the life of the project based on a 200-megawatt project.
Up to 300 full-time jobs will be created during project construction and eight to 13 local well-paying operations and maintenance jobs will be created for the long term.
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