By Chris Hoffman
(Madison, NY – Feb. 16, 2012) An overflow crowd had to be moved from the Madison Town Hall to the Fire Hall when close to 100 residents turned out on Feb. 16 for the special meeting held to discuss the Wind Turbine Special Use Permit application submitted by Rolling Upland Wind Farm, a subsidiary of EDP Renewables North America (EDPR). EDPR is also the parent company of Horizon Wind, which purchased the existing Madison Wind Farm in 2005.
The purpose of the meeting was to officially declare Lead Agency status of the Town of Madison and then to review the “Project Impacts and Magnitude” as a prelude to ascertaining the type of Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) the project would require.
Board Chair Roger Williams explained that 29 agencies had been notified of the town’s intent to assume Lead Agency responsibilities for the project. Eleven responses were received. Most were from entities that simply wanted to be kept apprised of project developments; none challenged the town’s claim to Lead Agency status.
Williams also explained that since Madison Market Place was constructed, the Board realized that it needed to create regulations for various kinds of commercial developers. The Wind Turbine Special Use Permit regulations, adopted in April 2011, came out of that effort.
Paul Crovella, Planning Board liaison to the town board, explained the overall process, which begins with an applicant (in this case, Rolling Upland Wind Farm) submitting a draft EIS for Planning Board review. The planning board reviews the draft EIS, and depending on what it contains, typically requests additional studies and information. Once all information is in place, the draft EIS is declared “complete.”
A period of public and agency review follows (a minimum of 30 days), after which a public hearing is held to solicit both written and oral comments. Those comments are then considered by the planning board, which makes recommendations to the town board. A final EIS is prepared, and then all involved entities and the planning board prepares a Statement of Findings, which commits the applicant to specific procedures to safeguard and mitigate environmental and other project-specific concerns. The costs of the environmental impact studies, as well as other related studies, as necessary, are borne by the applicant.
If approved, construction would not begin until 2015 and the town of Madison would receive PILOT payments (payments in lieu of taxes) from RUWF.
People in attendance had many questions, and discussion became heated at times. Board members and Project Manager Jeffrey Nemeth responded to all questions. Walter Kalina, a Principal Planner with CHA Companies, the consultant hired by the town to assist with assessing project impacts, addressed many concerns about specific language and items in “Project Impacts and Their Magnitude,” a document used to determine the scope of the EIS and SEQR.
CHA has made the following recommendations to the Town for inclusion in the draft EIS:
Due to the shallow bedrock in the project area, there is a possibility that blasting will occur. Therefore blasting should be addressed both in terms of noise and vibration.
Nighttime FAA lighting is likely to be required, and there has been concern at other wind farms where residences are nearby, with complaints focusing on blinking red lights visible from houses at night and sleep deprivation.
The socioeconomics should address any anticipated PILOT payments, a host community agreement, road use agreement, and a decommissioning plan; any fiscal impacts on the town or county or school districts should be identified.
Road impacts should include sight distance at intersections where vehicles will be turning and the impacts on intersections that may be operating at or near capacity due to the number of truck trips that will be generated during construction.
Due to the size of this project, the following should also be included: wetlands delineation report, ecology report, noise report, sediment and erosion control plan, invasive species plan, environmental monitoring plan, and emergency response plan.
Jane Welsh, a resident and landowner within the proposed project area, implored the town supervisor, the town board, and the planning board to put “the very real concerns of its residents and constituents ahead of corporate greed.” On behalf of everyone affected by the project, she petitioned the planning board to:
*Revise the special use permit regulations by deleting the town’s “right to waive requirements when deemed necessary” and to consider additional amendments to increase setback requirements and make permitted noise levels and flicker requirements more protective of residents.
*Require full compliance with the provisions of the special permit regulations and refrain from issuing a permit until the developer has submitted a final map showing actual locations of turbines, access roads, underground collection lines, and substations for review and approval;
*Require the developer to keep all residents within the project area fully and regularly apprised, not just those from whom the developer wishes to gain property rights;
*Require independent testing of residents’ well water at developer’s expense, during and after blasting occurs, and to require the developer to replace or restore wells and water quality to any owners whose water quality is affected;
*Require the developer to commission a study that maps each and every primary residence, not only within the project area, but also within the view shed of each turbine, and which considers the project’s effect on the character of the community;
*Require studies, including view shed, noise level, ice throw distances, seasonal shadow flutter, and light pollution, to assess effects on the year-round residences within the project area; and
*Require a specific telecommunications analysis regarding potential problems with phone, Internet, cell, radio, and television reception within the project area.
Additionally, Welsh requested that the town publish all notices of meetings, filings, pending actions, decisions and public hearings, as well as minutes and specific agendas in connection with the proposed project on its existing website (townofmadisonny.org); require the developer to make its submissions available electronically; and respond to these requests and petitions at the next regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting on Thursday March 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Chris Hoffman is a freelance writer/reporter for the Madison County Courier. She can be reached at email@example.com.