PROSPECT – Homeowner Thomas Satkunas submitted a preliminary proposal for zoning changes that would regulate and control wind generating facilities Wednesday night at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at Prospect Town Hall.
Several members of the newly-formed Save Prospect group made emotional appeals to the commission to help them prevent BNE Energy from building two wind turbines near their homes.
“The intent is to have some town control over the development of wind farms so it’s not strictly only up to Siting Council,” said Bill Donnavan, land use official.
Residents also previously requested a public hearing from the Connecticut Siting Council, which regulates public utilities.
Donnavan said the residents who spoke at the zoning meeting seemed genuinely concerned about their own health and the value of their properties.
“I think the Siting Council is receptive to any reasonable discussion of an application,” Donnavan said.
Tim Reilly, president of Save Prospect, said the group supported Satkunas’ proposal and would be submitting their own proposal demanding a setback of at least 1.25 miles from any residential property line. He said the group is looking to other states for guidelines about how to word zoning regulations restricting wind farm sites.
Save Prospect is also circulating a petition, which as of Wednesday night had 363 signatures, asking the Connecticut Siting Council to deny BNE’s application to build the turbines on the Visockis property in Prospect. The petition requests the council take more time to investigate the impact of the farm on residents’ quality of life.
“Act and act now to protect these people before it’s too late,” said Reilly.
In a separate interview, Gregory Zupkus, CEO of BNE and a Prospect resident, said the project has been in the works for about three years. BNE set up a meteorology tower about two years ago to measure wind conditions at the site and determined that it would be an ideal location for a windmill due to its elevation, orientation and topographical characteristics. The project would be the first commercial wind project in Connecticut.
“It’s green, clean, renewable energy, zero emission power,” said Zupkus.
Zupkus said the site is perfect because it encompasses 70 forested acres and abuts the Naugatuck Reservoir.
In BNE’s petition to the Connecticut Siting Council, which has the authority to accept or refuse BNE’s plans, BNE requested to build two GE Energy 1.6-megawatt wind turbines, and associated ground equipment, an access road, an ancillary building and a 13.8-kilo-volt electrical interconnection on the property.
“We believe that this is all positive to propel us into the future,” said Zupkus.
He noted that if the project does not go through, the land will be developed, creating more traffic and noise. The proposed project would preserve much of the natural land, he said.
“Our project, we believe, will preserve Prospect,” Zupkus said.
The turbines are expected produce about 85% of Prospect’s residential energy needs on a windy day when the turbines are operating at full capacity and about an average of about 25% over the course of a year.
The project would also benefit Prospect’s pockets, according to Zupkus.
Marilyn Donyai said she was worried ice would form on the turbine’s propellers and fall off, hitting cars on nearby Rt. 69.
Rich Sargeant Jr., a 3rd generation Prospect resident, spoke about his peaceful childhood growing up on Radio Tower Rd, 1,500 feet from the proposed turbines. He has three years left on his mortgage and plans to raise his son in the house where he grew up.
Sargeant was concerned about his son’s safety living so close to the turbines. He said Vestas, a wind turbine manufacturer, has a 1,300 foot hardhat zone around the turbines for its windmill workers.
“Should I buy my seven year old son a hardhat for Christmas?” asked Sargeant.
The proposed turbines, however, will be manufactured by G.E., which recommends a 984 foot safety zone for ice, according to Reilly.
John Lamontagne, of New Haven Rd., said although the Connecticut Siting Council has final say in the matter, the town zoning can play a big role in what they decide.
“Protect the character and integrity of Prospect,” Lamontagne implored the commission.
All the members of the group emphasized they were not against wind energy.
“We just want it done responsibly,” said Lamontagne. He said the turbines would be visible from over 360 homes.
A BNE study confirms that the turbines would be partially viewable from 356 properties.
Bob Accetura of Woodcrest Dr., said that he loved the idea of green power.
“We’re very conservative with electricity,” he said.
However, Accetura thought the turbines should be set back. He said the group was not rebelling against the town.
“We want this here, but we want it protected right and set up right,” he said.
John Hurley, a 20 year resident of Prospect whose home is 1,400 feet from the proposed turbines, spoke about his meeting with “Barry,” whose home in Falmouth, Massachusetts is 1,600 feet from a turbine. The group recently took a bus trip to Falmouth, where similar turbines are built, Citizens News previously reported.
“When I met Barry, we both cried,” Hurley said.
The Vietnam veteran attempted suicide after the turbines prevented him from gardening or sleeping, Hurley reported.
“Barry’s life is decimated. He was fine until the turbines came along…Proper setbacks would’ve avoided all this,” Hurley said. “I want green energy. I don’t want to worry that I’ll end up like Barry.”
Katie Lanouette, who lives 1,400 feet from the proposed site, held back tears as she told the commission about a brain tumor which causes her constant migraines and prevents her from working. She said she needs uninterrupted sleep to function and is very sound and light sensitive.
She said if the turbines are built, “I will have no quality of life any more…I will have constant migraines…I will miss my son’s life.”
Lanouette said that if this happened, she wouldn’t be able to sell her house because its value would decrease.
“Please don’t let them do this to me and my family. I’m barely getting by now,” she said.
BNE CEO Zupkus said that he cared about residents’ concerns, but the turbines will not exceed local or state sound levels at property lines. He said the turbines would not be as loud as a jet.
“It’s just misinformation,” he said.
According to the company website, “An operating modern wind farm at a distance of 750 feet to 1,000 feet is no more noisy than a kitchen refrigerator.”
According to BNE’s petition, the turbine would produce 23-44 decibels during the night.
Zupkus said he was proud to lead the way for wind energy in the state.
“As a Prospect resident, we are very excited about this,” said Zupkus.
He said the turbines will not be as close to residential property as owners suggest and that the lay of the land would protect them from falling ice or shadow flicker.
Zoning Commission Chairman Don Pomeroy congratulated the supplicants on their civil conduct.
“We try to do the best we can,” he said.
Gregory Ploski agreed with the Save Prospect group that the town needed a new zoning regulation pertaining to windmills.
Several members of the zoning commission said that they were trying to catch up on all the facts and legal aspects of the issue.
“We can’t foresee every possible issue,” said Pomeroy.
Zoning commission member Jack Crumb agreed.
“Just what I’ve heard tonight opened my eyes to a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve got to do something to protect the town.”
The zoning commission set a public hearing for the proposed zoning regulation changes for January 19 at 7:10 p.m. in the Town Hall.