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Consultants will help Barre navigate Article 10 process for Heritage Wind

Photos by Tom Rivers: Andrea Rebeck, a preservation architect who owns a historic house in Barre, said she worries the heavy equipment will damage older buildings and dust from the added traffic will cause problems for the sites and residents.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 July 2018 at 9:47 am

Kathy Spencer, principal environmental analyst with town consultant LaBella Associates, is assisting the town in navigating the Article 10 process the state uses for reviewing wind turbine projects.

BARRE – Residents met with consultants hired by the Town of Barre to assist the town in reviewing and responding to a preliminary scoping statement filed by Apex Clean Energy.

The company is proposing a 200-megawatt project that could include 47 wind turbines. Apex hasn’t detailed the size of the turbines, but they could top 500 to 600 feet high in the eastern and southern portions of the town.

As part of the PSS, Apex needs to provide $350 for each proposed megawatt to have the project reviewed by the host municipality and other citizens’ groups.

A judge determined Barre would receive $40,000 in intervenor funds and Clear Skies Above Barre would have $30,000. That will allow the groups to hire environmental attorneys and experts to review the Apex submission.

Barre has hired LaBella Associates, a Rochester engineering firm, and Alan Knauf, a Rochester attorney who specializes in environmental issues.

Kathy Spencer, principal environmental analyst with LaBella, said she will help the town identify issues of concern that need to be addressed by Apex in its application. She will also look for gaps in their information that need more detail.

A judge will determine through the stipulations process what studies Apex needs to do to address concerns from the community. If Apex submits a final application, it would be subject to public hearings and would also go before a seven-member Siting Board in Albany as part of the new Article 10 process. Only one wind turbine project has made it through the Siting Board, a project in Chautauqua County that is currently under construction.

“Article 10 is a brand new process,” Spencer said. “There is really a very slim record to understand and try to predict what will happen.”

The Town of Barre has $40,000 in intervenor funds and Clear Skies Above Barre has $30,000. Those funds from Apex allow Barre and Clear Skies to hire environmental attorneys and experts to review the Apex submission. Barre’s consultants met with about 50 people Wednesday in the Barre highway garage.

The seven-member Siting Board has five state representatives including the chairman of the Department of Public Service, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, commissioner of the Department of Health, chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the commissioner of Economic Development.

Two local residents will also be on the Siting Board. So far, Robin Nacca has been appointed. She lives on Route 98. Her property is adjacent to land that has been leased for a possible turbine. She has established Know Your Facts USA, seeking to provide truthful data about wind turbines.

Nacca said the local community can provide lots of feedback about the project, and the Siting Board doesn’t want to approve a project that is unwanted in the host community.

One Barre resident, Cindy Burnside, took issue with the loss of local control in siting the projects. She said Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing his agenda on the rural communities.

“I have a problem with the government shoving it down our throats,” she said.

Burnside is a long-time local real estate agent. She said the turbines will depress property values in Barre, and make the town less attractive for residents.

Sue Webster, another person who works with real estate, said potential residents in Barre are holding off on buying property because they want to wait and see if the turbines are approved. If the project goes forward, Webster and Burnside said home values could take at least a 20 percent hit.

They want Apex to include a study on how large-scale wind projects affect the local real estate market.

Kerri Richardson, president of Clear Skies Above Barre, urged the Town Board to update its zoning for wind turbines, increasing setbacks from houses.

Spencer of LaBella has worked with communities on reviewing other wind turbine projects. She said issues typically raised by residents include setbacks from turbines, visual impacts, public health and safety issues, damage to town roads and infrastructure during construction process, visual impacts, decommissioning, and a complaint resolution procedure for residents to share concerns during construction and operation.

Spencer said many of the environmental concerns are addressed by the DEC. She said that state agency puts the developers through a rigorous process.

“The DEC is going into extreme depth for what they’re looking for,” she said. “The state agencies are asking for extremely detailed studies, the likes of which I’ve never seen before, if that brings any comfort to you.”

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