PORTLAND – Applications and permits for commercial wind energy projects are banned in the town for the next six months.
The Portland Town Board passed the moratorium Wednesday after a public hearing. Town officials sought the moratorium to give them time to update and draft regulations for wind farm developments. Representatives from Emergya Wind Technology gave a presentation to the board earlier this month about a proposed project.
The first speaker during the public hearing, Arkwright resident Lynn Bedford, offered warnings about her experiences with her town’s wind energy project.
“I encouraged everybody, I said, ‘you know, let’s give it a try.’ Then I started doing my research, but by the time I did, it was far too late,” she said. “I found out that there is something called infrasound, and it disturbs, your sleep, your attitudes, your biorhythms, it actually disturbs your well-being.
“I know that these can bring a lot of money in. But I believe that human life is far more important than money,” she continued. “If you have any intentions of bringing wind turbines to your town, research it thoroughly. And don’t ever put them closer than a mile to any resident … We suffer health issues almost every day. At night it sounds like we’re in an airport. You have jet airliners that never leave and are always there, with terrible hums, buzzing, crackling.”
The next speaker was Kevin Powell – a landowner in Portland whose property is being eyed by Emergya for turbines.
“No matter what subject you talk about, if you look for the research, there’s research done on both sides of the subject,” he said. He said the infrasound issue “isn’t really as cut and dried as they claim it is. Infrasound exists from your heartbeat, from your breathing, from the wind blowing through your tree in the yard, from the traffic from the Thruway. …If infrasound is a thing, it’s already here. It’s around us.”
Powell added that the proposed turbines, at 326 feet tall, are much smaller than the ones in Arkwright, which are 492 feet tall.
More citizens spoke out against turbines, with one woman warning the board it would be swamped with legal troubles if it brought wind energy projects to the town. Another woman related a story about how an Arkwright resident who complained about turbine noises to a wind farm official was sarcastically told it was paranormal activity.
Portland Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz read a letter from Bill Westin, chairman of the Brocton Planning Board, in favor of a moratorium. With the six-month freeze, “the board gets time to contact other municipalities … to see how they have handled the issues,” Westin wrote. He added it would give town officials time and space to investigate the alleged quality-of-life issues surrounding turbines, as well as what effects wind farms might have on property values and the town tax base.
One man, who did not give his name, said a moratorium was not necessary and the board should start considering Emergya’s proposal. “You have bright, capable people on the town board – let’s go,” he said.
“This is a huge decision that’s going to affect the whole town … the town board just wants to be careful,” Schrantz replied. “The benefit the town is getting from this, is it enough to reduce taxes?”
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