Residents fighting back against wind farms

MAYVILLE — Proposed wind farms may have gathered municipal support, but they don’t have the backing from three residents who visited Mayville to voice their concerns at this week’s County Legislature meeting.

Angelo Graziano, Forestville resident, became a town of Villenova board member in 2014 when the Ball Hill Wind Farm project was in motion.

Although he wasn’t familiar with the project, Graziano said he knew all town residents needed to know what to expect with the possibility of wind turbines nearby.

To date, the project went through procedure, public hearings and municipal approvals needed to get wind turbines up in Villenova and the town of Hanover. A power purchase agreement is the only obstacle in the way before construction begins.

In December, the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency approved a payment in lieu of tax agreement for the wind project, which will see the placing of 23 turbines in Villenova and six turbines in Hanover. Renewable Energy Systems is leading the way on the project.

From the start, Graziano told county legislators it was a shady deal between the lack of information and inaccurate studies.

“There’s nothing from outside experts on health, property values and water well studies,” he said, adding not all residents received mailers and information on the project. “When Hanover voted on the project, they were told there was no opposition in Villenova. This is very untrue. There are many who oppose the project.”

Graziano said Villenova’s public hearing was a circus between the finger pointing and bullying against the residents who opposed the installation of wind turbines. Graziano told legislators he tried to change the state environmental quality review assessment (SEQRA) to review under Article 10, which he said would have assessed the validity of reports and documents both pro and con. His attempt was unsuccessful.

“I asked the wind company to notify the township with mailers. They said they would … they did not,” he said. “I sent a letter to the Department of Public Service. Unfortunately, that also failed.”

Graziano’s wife, Tina, took to the microphone to express grave concern over the project and a lack of defense for residents’ rights.

“The intrusion, the numerous health impacts, shadow flicker, noise, sleep deprivation and the abomination will never stop or leave,” she said. “We don’t have money to fund lawyers to save us. The wind companies are running over us.”

In Arkwright and Pomfret, 36 wind turbines are expected to be in operation by year’s end. EDP Renewables North America LLC is leading the project that’ll span across 6,500 acres of leased private land.

Fred Keller, Arkwright resident, said he wrote 315 letters to fellow citizens about the project as not all received a public notice. Keller said 50 people responded to his letter.

“I started talking to other neighbors and discovered that only those people who’s property was contingent to proposed turbine properties got the mailing,” he said. “It just so happened that a neighbor who would be closer to several turbines than we are did not get a notice. That doesn’t sound fair.”

While he’s aware of the concern, County Executive Vince Horrigan said it’s a town decision. Horrigan said he doesn’t see himself interfering.

“I feel it’s been fairly heard by the appropriate people and that the process is on the proper track,” he said. “If I didn’t think so, if I thought there were shortcuts, I would jump in there. But I haven’t seen it.”

County Legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, has been a strong opponent to the Ball Hill Wind Farm project and noted wind turbines aren’t built without massive and ongoing taxpayer subsidies. As noted by residents, Borrello said the impacts of having over 100 wind turbines in the county are unknown.

“I don’t feel that enough information has been given to enough people for those in the community to make an informed decision on this,” he said. “Zoning law allows only certain people to be notified. At the end of the day, a 500-foot tall tower is going to affect more than someone who’s 1,000 feet away from it.”

Along with the Ball Hill Wind Farm and Arkwright Summit Wind projects, the Cassadaga Wind Project is proposing over 50 turbines in the towns of Arkwright, Charlotte and Cherry Creek.

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