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Local News

July 25, 2013

Wind farm proposal divides Richfield Springs

RICHFIELD SPRINGS — A review of a controversial wind-farm project that would bracket U.S. Route 20 is expected to be completed by Otsego County planners by Aug. 9, and the Richfield Planning Board could act on an application for a special permit, according to some officials, as early as Aug. 12.

The wind project has divided town officials as well as town residents, with opponents saying the towering turbines would be noisy and emit flashing lights, while advocates say they will produce clean renewable energy while spurring economic activity.

Otsego County Planning Director Karen Sullivan said her department is combing through a raft of documents — including a dozen 3½-inch-thick booklets of legal papers relating to litigation over the project — and has reached out to three town supervisors in neighboring Herkimer County to get input from them.

The Planning Department, she said, has 30 days to finish its review, which began July 9. The mission of the county planners, she said, is to determine what impacts the wind farm might have both within Otsego County and on neighboring municipalities, including Litchfield, Winfield and Columbia in Herkimer County.

One determination that will be made is whether the 492-foot tall turbines — which will be visible from those nearby towns — mesh with the comprehensive plans of neighboring municipalities.

The county agency, however, does not hold veto power over the project. But if it does find impacts of concern, the Richfield Town Planning Board — which had issued a permit to the developers in late 2011 in a move that led opponents to file a lawsuit challenging the decision — could still decide to issue a permit if a “supermajority” approves it.

Because one Planning Board member, Paul Szeflinski, was killed this month in a farm accident, a supermajority would require that all remaining four board members unanimously agree to issue the permit.

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