Shelby residents voice concerns over 2 tall turbines

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 September 2022 at 11:29 am

Shadow flicker, noise and impact on birds among concerns

Photos by Tom Rivers: Shelby residents Brian McCarty and Karen Jones spoke against two wind turbines that would peak at 633 feet along Route 63, south of the village of Medina. Jones said the town needs to do more rigorous environmental impact studies.

SHELBY – The Town Board heard from several residents that they don’t think an orchard on Route 63, just south of the Village of Medina, is a good spot for two wind turbines that would peak at 633 feet.

The turbines proposed by Borrego Solar System Inc. would alter the landscape visually, and also potentially harm residents with shadow flicker, noise, lower property values and other impacts, residents said. They also worry the turbines are in a major migratory bird path.

The Town Board was asked to hold off on approving an environmental impact assessment of the project until a more detailed analysis can be done. The board started going through that assessment on Tuesday night but tabled it after the meeting went on for three hours and neared 10 p.m.

Ryan Wilkins, the deputy town supervisor, said the town is going through the process and no decision has been made.

“We are going to get all the information we can and make the decision after that,” he said.

In the environmental assessment that will be reviewed by the town, Shelby officials will identify if there are any issues that warrant more study or information.

The board already said it wants more information on a water runoff plan and mitigation strategies. It wants to know how the towers would be anchored into the ground.

Dan Koneski said the two turbines are too big to be so close to the village and many other residential properties.

The assessment considers the project’s impact on the land, geological features, surface water, groundwater, flooding, air, plants and animals, agricultural resources, aesthetic resources, historic and archeological resources, open space and recreation, critical environmental areas, transportation, energy, noise, odor and light, human health, community plans and community character.

Shelby resident Wendi Pencille said the Town Board isn’t qualified to make those determinations, especially with the potential harm to human health. The shadow flicker, noise and vibrations can disrupt sleep, cognitive function and could lead to debilitating headaches and depression.

Sherman Gittens, the town engineer from the MRB Group, goes over the environmental impact assessment. That process will continue. “This is a continuing review,” he said.

Pencille said she doesn’t oppose wind energy but said the location of Route 63, on land owned by the Smith family, is not a good spot. (Town Supervisor Jeff Smith has recused himself from voting and discussions about the project because his family owns the land.)

“There are places where wind turbines will do less damage,” she said.

Resident Barbara Hoffman said the turbines would be an eyesore. She also fears the two turbines will lead to more turbines in the town and around the county. She said solar panels would be a better option for the land.

Resident Alana Koneski said the turbines at nearly 650 feet high are way out of scale, especially in populated areas near the village and Maple Ridge Road.

“Please consider all the neighbors out here,” she said.

Dan Koneski said the turbines in Wyoming county are about 400 feet high. The ones proposed for Shelby would be among the tallest in the country. He called the turbines “a nuisance.”

“You won’t be able to hear the deer with the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh all day long,” he said.

Jim Heminway, another resident, said the town has done a poor job of notifying the public about the proposed project. He compared that to when the Village of Medina had a vote to dissolve the village government in January 2015. In that case, the town paid for mailers and advertisements, urging people to oppose dissolution. The issue was voted down, 949 to 527.

Jim Heminway said the town hasn’t done enough to make people aware of the project.

“Many residents are not aware of this project and it impacts a lot of people,” Heminway said. “There is nothing built like it in New York State.”

Resident Karen Jones asked the town for a six-month moratorium on the environmental assessment to allow residents and experts more time to review the potential impacts.

She is concerned about the turbines’ impact on birds and wildlife, the shadow flicker for nearby residents,

She questioned the accuracy of Borrego’s report that put the flicker impact at 19 hours over a full year. She believes it will be longer.

Jones also said the turbines are close to the Shelby Earthworks, an ancient Indian Fort on Salt Works Road in Medina. The environmental assessment doesn’t mention this site in the report.

“I ask for a moratorium,” she said. “It is a moral imperative.”

Resident Craig Slater faulted the Town Board for trying to fast track the project with little public input.

“This is a horrible location (for turbines),” he said. “It’s near a historic village on the main route to and from town.”

Linda Limina also asked for a six-month moratorium to give residents and the town officials more time “to educate themselves and be more aware of the project.”

Mike Zelazny doesn’t want to see good farmland lost to turbines and solar panels.

Resident Brian McCarty said it was “an absolute betrayal of trust” to consider the project in that area.

Anne Smith of Lakeshore Road in Yates has opposed a turbine project in Yates and Somerset. She said the two in Shelby is a different approach from wind energy companies. Rather than propose a larger project with 30 or more turbines, Borrego is going for two in Shelby. She sees that as a way to avoid a more through environmental study from the state. If Borrego is successful, she expects more developers will put up turbine projects, two or four a time.

“Those two turbines will develop into 2, 4, 6, 8 – 30,” she said. “The whole of Orleans County will be covered in wind turbines.”

She urged Shelby officials to do a survey of the town residents and property owners, gauging their opinions on the matter. She said Yates did three community surveys.

Mike Zelazny said he is concerned about the long-term effect not only of the turbines, but solar panels and batteries. He wonders how the units and equipment will be disposed. The projects seem to be targeted to rural communities.

“There are better places for it rather than residential communities and good farmland,” Zelazny said.