TOWN OF FLORIDA – Residents say a 10% discount on their electricity bills from a community wind project proposed on YMCA Road wouldn’t justify any disturbances the 650 foot tall turbine could cause in the town of Florida.
“One of the most precious assets of the town of Florida is the peace and quiet and the quality of life,” Deanna DeLuke said. “Anything that even stands a chance of jeopardizing that is not worth it.”
Nearly 30 townspeople raised objections and demanded answers during a public hearing on the proposal conducted by the Planning Board on Monday.
New Leaf Energy is seeking approval to construct a 4.3 megawatt wind turbine on about 4.9 acres out of a 135 acre parcel at 153 YMCA Road. The turbine would be approximately 650 feet tall when the blades reach their highest point. The Florida Zoning Board of Appeals issued a height variance allowing it to exceed town codes limiting turbines to 400 feet in December.
David Strong, senior project developer for New Leaf, highlighted benefits from the single turbine project that would produce renewable energy for local consumption during a brief presentation at the start of the hearing. New Leaf is an independently operating renewable energy development company that was formerly part of Borrego Solar.
“There are not many places you can find where you have good wind resource, plenty of space away from homes and that you can site safely,” Strong said. He indicated all those conditions were met in the town on the large site where the land is unsuitable for agricultural uses.
Locals could subscribe to the community wind project to receive a 10% credit off their electricity bills. The turbine would provide property tax revenues to Montgomery County and local school districts. Florida would also receive direct payments of about $30,000 a year through a host benefit agreement with the developer since there is no townwide tax.
Residents unconvinced there would be any benefits, were clear that nothing could make up for potential impacts from the turbine.
“I don’t see a benefit for any of us,” Karen Anne Baran said. “We came up here for this way of life. This is what we dreamed about. This is what we want. Everything seems to be changing. They are encroaching on our land.”
A pair of images on visual impacts from the turbine out of the extensive analyses already prepared for the project were displayed during Strong’s presentation. One showed red shaded areas of the town surrounding the project site from which the turbine would not be visible.
The other was of a wooded area of the town now and a scale rendering after construction showing the white turbine blades poking out above the tree line.
The short presentation did not go into more specific details about the visual impacts or even mention studies on noise, shadow flicker and other effects from the project.
All of the impact studies and project materials prepared to date can be viewed online, Strong noted. He invited locals to view the analyses and reach out to him directly with any questions or concerns through New Leaf’s website.
Florida residents already had some familiarity with the details after a similarly sized turbine was proposed by the same development team in nearby Glen that faced widespread opposition before it was withdrawn earlier this year.
“It appears the answer to this should be a clear no, just like it has been in all the communities surrounding us,” Bill Bonner said. “I would be against this coming into the community.”
“Was it just put upon us as they go to different communities and get rejected,” Rebekah Mortiz added.
The 650 foot turbine proposed in Florida would be visible throughout the town depending on the topography, elevation and vegetation based on simulations prepared for the developer by Saratoga Associates.
The device would be most visible in immediately surrounding areas within a few miles of it. Scale renderings using photos from points in the town show how the turbine blades would be visible above tree lines in some areas or the full device would be visible in others across open fields. The device would be fully concealed by buildings, trees or hills from various points.
“The last thing I think any of us wants to see is a wind tower. We don’t want it, we don’t need it,” resident Eileen Bruni said. “We live in a very unique community. I don’t want to see that disturbed.”
Some residents living nearest to the device would experience “shadow flicker” intermittently blotting out daylight inside their homes from the turning blades based on a study by Epsilon Associates. The phenomenon varies based on distance from the device, weather and time of day or year.
The study found that seven out of 15 homes and structures within several thousand feet of the turbine would likely be impacted by shadow flicker to some extent. Homes further out would not be impacted.
Only one home on Shellstone Road is expected to experience shadow flicker for about 28 minutes per year. A home on YMCA Road would be the most impacted by around 18 hours and 43 minutes each year. It could reach up to 63 hours a year in the worst case scenario.
“Our property borders that property. We do not want a wind turbine,” Valerie Skaarland said.
Noise impacts from the project were also studied by Epsilon with the home on YMCA Road and another nearby structure expected to be the most affected by sound from the turbine capable of reaching up to 41 decibels described as equivalent to soft speech from 3 feet away. The study notes noise normally increases with wind speed before leveling off even if wind continues rising.
“We’re going to be within a half mile of that across the hill,” Mark Rulison said. “I can imagine opening my window at night … There is no way we want to listen to that.”
The potential impacts from the turbine have already lowered property values on Bean Hill Road, according to Ken Norris. He was fielding offers on his home above asking price before word spread of the proposed wind turbine. Now he is considering an under value offer.
After spending 10 years restoring a historic farmhouse and barn on Shellstone Road, Joe Wells is reeling at the thought of the turbine being constructed close by.
“I’m trying to save a rural community or parts of it. Then you’re going to put a massive wind turbine in my backyard, I didn’t go through all that effort. I’m bleeding to save it … for this,” Wells said. “It’s going to lose its soul out here.”
Residents over the course of the roughly 45 minute hearing asked a myriad of questions about project details and impacts they hadn’t been provided information on.
“We’re talking about the health issues for humans, but what about our agricultural community with all these animals,” Sherry Kline said. “These farmers’ cows, are they going to have a real problem with milking?”
While public hearings are meant to give locals a chance to comment on proposals, Planning Board Chairman Michael Taylor said the board would try to secure answers to the questions raised by locals. He was unable to say how the responses would be disseminated, but rejected calls to mail the information to townspeople as unfeasible.
Town engineering consultant Brad Grant indicated the developers would need to provide responses to residents’ questions and concerns from the hearing as part of the application process to advance the project review.
“Tonight the most important thing that happened is that the public got a chance to speak, we need to hear those responses,” Grant said.
New Leaf representatives agreed the information could be supplied in time for consideration at a public workshop the Planning Board has scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 28.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding