A dozen residents of the Town of Guilford attended this morning’s 8:30 a.m. meeting of the Chenango County Planning Board to advocate for meaningful environmental impact review before the Town of Guilford votes on a proposed local wind project law.
Despite receiving a letter from the attorney for Concerned Neighbors of Guilford, the Planning Board approved a draft local law from the Town containing standards requested by Calpine, a company proposing 676-foot-high wind turbines in the Town.
Calpine’s High Bridge wind project is being reviewed by a State Siting Board, but because the Board applies local standards these had to be changed to accommodate the proposed project. George Seneck, Town Supervisor and the leading voice on the County Planning Board on this issue, assured board members that the Town’s attorney approves the proposed local law. Planning Board review must precede a vote by the Town Board on the local law, which is expected tomorrow evening.
The President of Concerned Neighbors, Dan Harrington, attended the Planning Board meeting and noted that the group’s attorney found to the contrary. “No review of potential adverse effects of allowing such projects in the Town took place. We asked Supervisor Seneck whether he agreed that this would have a significant impact on the character of the community and he said yes.” Nevertheless, no research, consultant’s report, or other information about the effects of large-scale wind projects on the environment or the community was provided to the Planning Board.
Concerned Neighbors’ attorney Gary Abraham of Great Valley, New York, wrote in a letter to the Planning Board that state law requires far more scrutiny of a local law regulating town-wide wind projects. It is “well settled,” Abraham’s letter noted, that such local laws, because they would affect a large amount of land with construction of large turbines, access roads, and new transmission lines, are presumed to require an environmental impact study. Having conducted no study at all, Abraham recommended that the Planning Board return the local law to the Town with instructions to comply with the State’s environmental regulations.
The Planning Board instead approved the local law unconditionally at this morning’s meeting, clearing the way for a Town Board vote.
Concerned Neighbors questioned whether the Town Supervisor is biased, since his sister-in-law is leasing her land for Calpine’s project. “Seneck has tainted the process by being actively engaged in—and even leading—all the discussions of this matter at both the Town Board and the Planning Board. He has succeeded in steering all these officials away from any study of the consequences. This head-in-the-sand posture will remove any control the community might have had over wind farm development.”
Concerned Neighbors believes that the impacts of large-scale wind projects in Guilford will be felt in all the adjacent towns and most of the county. “Properties become much more difficult to sell within two miles of big wind projects, because not only can everyone see them, but at sunrise and sundown strobing shadows fall on roads, homes, and other land,” according to group member Rebecca Young. She added, “the flickering shadows make the inside of a home strobe, and residents find it necessary to vacate during those times.” She pointed to several realtor reports and research studies showing that property values decline 15-30% within the two-mile area around a large wind project.
The Guilford Town Board holds a public hearing and is expected to vote at its Wednesday meeting, August 14th, at 7:00 p.m. at the Town Hall, 223 Marble Road in Guilford.
For more information visit www.saveguilford.com or call Gary Abraham, attorney for Concerned Neighbors of Guilford, 716-790-6141.
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