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Pomfret makes changes to wind turbine law

The Pomfret Town Board tightened its law on wind turbines at its March meeting, after a familiar coalition of local anti-wind energy residents showed up at the public hearing beforehand to criticize the windmill industry.

Town Supervisor Dan Pacos said the main changes are an increase in the required setback of turbines from nearby properties, and a differentiation between “large units that connect to the grid as opposed to small units that a farmer wants to use.” The changes were jointly proposed by the town’s zoning and planning boards, he said.

Pomfret resident Gail Clark questioned whether the changes were coming due to zoning issues and said not enough notice of the alterations was given, claiming that copies of the law were not available for the public to look at. “That is not accurate,” said Pomfret Town Clerk Allison Vento, stating that a copy has been available in her office for a while and she also has put all the legally required notices in the OBSERVER.

“The changes serve to make the law more stringent,” Pacos told Clark. “We had people who wanted to reduce the setbacks to make it easier to move in.”

Town Attorney Jeff Passafaro said no specific application for a new wind project has been put forward.

Arkwright resident and board member Lynn Bedford lives near a turbine and has been vocal at other municipal meetings about how it has negatively affected her health. She repeated her stance at the town board meeting.

“If someone had come with the experience that I have had of living near the turbine, I think things would have been different with our town board,” she said.

Bedford said she has had hearing problems since the day the turbine was erected near her house. “These turbines have been nothing but a living hell for my husband and myself,” she said.

“Please, do your homework,” she pleaded with the board. “Make sure you set them far away from residents.”

Another prominent turbine opponent, Fredonia’s Mark Twichell, thought Pomfret’s proposed setback of four times the height of the turbine might not go far enough. “There are people who are experiencing disruption in Arkwright at that distance,” he said.

Twichell added, “Not a single protective wind law in New York state has ever been struck down. This board doesn’t have to be shy.”

Rod Pennica, a former Pomfret Town Board member, called the previous law “wholly inadequate” and said he appreciated that the current board was tightening it.

Karen Engstrom has filmed local turbine-related municipal meetings for Chautauqua Access television for several years, and was behind the camera again at the March town board meeting. She stepped out from behind her tripod to state, in part, that from what she has seen in surrounding areas with turbines, “the quality of life has been put in jeopardy for very little return.”

Calling their move to strengthen their turbine law “very positive,” Engstrom handed Pomfret town officials a DVD called “Get Out While You Can, The Arkwright NY Wind Story.”

After the hearing, the board passed the changes to the law unanimously. Pacos said “the gratitude of the folks that showed up” for the hearing told him they did a good job on the alterations.

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