Supervisor Frank Duserick said the town of Naples is investigating what legal standing it may have to protest the placement of wind turbines planned for neighboring Prattsburgh.

Supervisor Frank Duserick said the town of Naples is investigating what legal standing it may have to protest the placement of wind turbines planned for neighboring Prattsburgh.

“We’re not against wind towers,” Duserick said. “But we are for appropriate placement of towers. Our concern is they should have put them a minimum of 1,500 feet from the town line.”

Ecogen of West Seneca, near Buffalo, has proposed building up to 53 turbines — though the number could fall to 31 if it switches from a 1.5 to 2.5-megawatt model — in Prattsburgh in 2009.

One tower would go up on Knapp Hill less than 500 feet from the property line of a parcel John Servo owns in Naples that borders Prattsburgh. Servo, who is president of the anti-windfarm group Advocates of Prattsburgh, urged the Naples Town Board at a recent meeting to demand a 1,500-foot setback.

Servo said that Naples landowners near the town line where the wind towers are planned would effectively be prevented from full use of their property because of the noise he said turbines make. He called the Prattsburgh plan “reverse zoning for Naples.”

The Steuben County Industrial Development Agency is the lead agency responsible for determining the guidelines for the completion of the Prattsburgh wind-tower project. It has not sought input from Naples. 

Duserick called SCIDA and Ecogen’s decision to place towers less than 500 feet from the town line an abrogation of Naples property owners’ rights. 

“It may be legal, but it’s totally unethical and immoral,” Duserick said. “No one in their right minds would build within 500 feet of a wind turbine. The right thing to do is to get an appropriate setback.”

The Ecogen project is not related to the two wind farms now under construction in Cohocton by UPC Wind. Cohocton has a local law requiring towers to be at least 1,500 feet from a residence. The town of Prattsburgh, however, has no standard minimum distance for tower placement. 

Setbacks for the Prattsburgh project vary from a minimum of 489 feet, intended as a safe fall zone should a tower collapse, to a maximum of 1,375 feet, to cut down on noise to nearby residences. The setback from Servo’s property was based on the distance outlined for a seasonal residence because the property generates its own power rather than hooking into the power grid.

UPC Wind has said that at a distance of 750 to 1,500 feet, the noise level of a wind turbine is comparable with a refrigerator, and that at 800 to 900 feet, a working turbine’s noise is masked by the wind. However, Servo said that studies of completed wind farms in Pennsylvania have determined that the noise from the turbines, at the source, was measured at up to 105 decibels, closer to the noise of a tractor or generator. 

Servo also reminded the board that the towers have flashing lights for aviation purposes that can impact nearby homeowners.

Servo has visited operational wind farms such as the one in Fenner, Madison County, during his research on the impact of the turbines to nearby homeowners. “When I visited Fenner, the noise was shocking at 2,300 feet away,” he later said.  “If they put the towers next to my son’s house, it will be unlivable. My main house may be unlivable. We moved to the country to get some peace and quiet.”

Servo also told the board that there was precedent, in the case of the Glimmerglass Historic District in Herkimer, in which the Public Service Commission acknowledged a distance of five miles as a standard for how close wind turbines could be set near a historic site.

There are several sites within the village of Naples that are registered as historic sites, such as the Memorial Town Hall and the Maxwell Building and tower behind the Naples Pharmacy. The sites are less than three miles from the planned wind towers on Knapp Hill.

Matt Dallas, a spokesman for Babcock & Brown, a company affiliated with Ecogen, confirmed that the five turbines on Knapp Hill are scheduled for construction sometime in 2009. He said the placement was selected because the turbines should be more effective at this site. 

Daily Messenger