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Yates planners table wind turbines

PENN YAN—The Sept. 24 Yates County Planning Board meeting was moved to the auditorium in the Yates County office building to accommodate more than a dozen people who attended the meeting. The board had received a referral on Ecogen, LLC’s proposal to construct industrial wind turbine towers in two wind energy incentive zones in the town of Italy.
Board member Charles Mitchell said, “This will set a precedent for all other Yates County towns. There is too much data to read in two weeks. If we did read it, would we understand it?” Mitchell said he would like to retain an expert to interpret the data for the board, which is composed of volunteers who represent Yates County municipalities.
Planning board member Judy Wiltberger said she agreed, noting, “We need a neutral person to put this in some sort of perspective. We can’t do it well without information.” Planning board chairman James Ritter said he had read the material for about eight hours, calling it, “A handful.”
After similar comments were made by other board members, the board voted unanimously to table a decision until an expert could be hired to interpret the date.
Following the vote, several audience members spoke about the project. The first, Vince Johnson, said he was speaking as an officer of the Finger Lakes Preservation Association. The organization is a group of local residents. Johnson expressed his concern about the protection and preservation of viewsheds in the town. Johnson also stated 80 percent of town residents did not favor the wind energy incentive zones, stating Ecogen established their own hardship. Johnson said the town board gave in due to the constant threats of litigation. He said, “The town board gave in to avoid bankrupting the town at the expense of the health and well being of its residents.”
The next speaker, Thor Vandehei, identified himself as an astrophysicist and said he had researched scientific literature on noise, an issue he said “Is not to be taken lightly.” Vandehei went on to outline the noise produced by the turbines which he said is not masked by ambient noise levels.
Italy resident Brad Jones spoke next. He said one of his concerns was property values. Jones maintained if the turbines are built they will reduce property values within the energy incentive zones. He said the town of Naples is concerned about the impact on property values there. He said Italy has not taken action on the turbines because “Material from the developer is not here.” Jones said he is running for Supervisor of the town of Italy and if he is elected would enact a moratorium.
Branchport resident Jim Fitzgibbons spoke about his concern that wind turbines are not appropriate for our region, noting wind energy is of low density and variable here. He said he is deeply concerned about the issue of noise as well. The fifth speaker, Dave Ferry, is chairman of the Italy planning board. He said the project had the possibility of tripling the town tax base but citizens clearly are not convinced, adding, “There is nothing to be lost by waiting.”
Ecogen representative Daniel Spitzer addressed some of the previous comments, stating, “Obviously the people are sincere. The town board deserves thanks of the entire county. They spent eight months studying the law, arguing and debating.” He said he has not seen the studies that indicate there is a negative effect on property values. Spitzer added, “To suggest the Italy town board did not do their job; they have not approved or signed off. You in planning know it is illegal to make a decision based on public opinion.” Addressing noise, he said that in suggesting noise is so clear cut that every court in the country has rejected these claims. He added, “There are sincere disagreements regarding noise levels. You will find modern wind turbines cause virtually no noise. The first think I say is that these will change your community. They are tall, they are visual. The first speaker was right. I ask as you make a decision to make it on facts.The community will speak in the elections.”
County planning board members asked questions next, asking for information on alternatives, if other wind companies could come into the town and additional questions about noise levels and future upgrades.
In other business:
• The board approved a request for additional signage and sales items at a current car wash business in Penn Yan with one no vote cast. A request for an area variance for signage for a gas station in Penn Yan was approved with the suggestion that the village look at the use of this type of business in an R2 zone. The gas station formerly in business at the site has been closed for an extended period.
• Approved three referrals from the town of Jerusalem. A zoning map amendment would expand the Branchport Service Park District to include a property to facilitate the shifting of Mill Street and to bring the total property to be included into the Harborview Townhouse project into the district. The second referral approved was a local law creating a property nuisance abatement law for Jerusalem. The third referral from Jerusalem was a correction to town zoning in reference to rear setbacks in the R1 district.
The next meeting of the Yates County Planning Board will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 in the closing room in the Yates County office building on Liberty Street in Penn Yan.

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