Save Prospect president calls for wind energy task force


PROSPECT — He may have won his battle, but Save Prospect President Tim Reilly isn’t done fighting.

In a letter to town officials, the leader of the group that defeated commercial wind turbines in Prospect requested a “wind energy task force” be formed to draft regulations for smaller scale residential use wind energy systems.

“For the good of the town and its people, the elected town leaders must work to educate and involve its residents in creating a wind energy policy and/or regulations for the town,” Reilly wrote in the letter.

Reilly said the twice-monthly Planning and Zoning meetings are not a sufficient forum to create such regulations.
In the letter, Reilly suggested creating a task force and holding public hearings to vet the topic. He suggested reviewing regulations in similar Connecticut towns regarding residential-use turbines. In the letter, Reilly outlined steps in a process that would end with a referendum to approve the recommendations.

Reilly said he has not yet done research into what potential issues there might be with smaller turbines.

“I do know that once you put something up with blades that turn, there’s a risk of breakage,” Reilly said.

He said many different manufacturers have different standards of quality, safety, and noise levels.

“It’s something everybody’s unfamiliar with. It is not putting up a shed, a pool, and new office building,” Reilly said.

Reilly said he didn’t want to decide what Prospect residents want those regulations to be, but rather, let the people voice their opinions.

“My proposal reeks of democracy,” Reilly said.

He said the process shouldn’t be rushed, but take a thoughtful, well-researched approach to the issue, with lots of chance for public participation. Reilly said Prospect residents have to ask themselves whether they would want a 35- to 65-foot turbine on their neighbors’ property and what residential areas would be appropriate.

Reilly said the Mayor and Town Council have to take the lead on developing a policy.

“Save Prospect stands ready to fully support this initiative to ensure that the process is fully representative of Prospect’s residents concerns and expectations, resulting in a policy and/or regulations that mirror those expectations,” Reilly wrote.

In an e-mail to the Citizen’s News, Town Council Chair Tom Galvin said he would bring up the letter at the council’s next meeting, Aug. 16.

“Personally, I believe over the last eight months that essentially everyone in Prospect has become very aware of what wind turbines are all about,” Galvin said.

Galvin wrote that it is the responsibility of the Planning and Zoning Commission to maintain and modify Prospect’s zoning and land use regulations.

“I know first hand that they always solicit feedback from the public, and working within Connecticut’s statutes, always do what’s in the best interest of Prospect.  They are a big reason why we’re still the ‘Best Small Town in Connecticut’,” wrote Galvin, who served on the commission from 2001 to 2007.

Galvin advocated taking a wait-and-see approach to turbines in Prospect while the Connecticut Siting Council comes up with its own regulations regarding large, commercial wind turbines.

“I would hope that any research the state does would give all towns an indication as to the scope of the danger of these things,” Galvin said.

He said once the state regulations are hashed out, the Planning and Zoning Commission can decide whether they need more restrictive regulations.

The only reason Prospect wasn’t able to restrict the turbines proposed by BNE Energy was that the Connecticut Siting Council has sole authority to place energy projects over one megawatt, according to Galvin.

For smaller turbines, Galvin said the town already has several zoning regulations addressing issues like height, noise, and safety.

For example, structures in Prospect can’t be over 35 feet tall and the town has had a noise ordinance since 1987, according to Galvin.

Pomeroy said, citing potential conflicts of interest when recommendations came to a vote.

He said his job is to serve the community and develop the town in an orderly fashion by creating zoning regulations that create beneficial relationships with residents and commercial interests.

He said that any regulations would have to allow wind turbines to be built in town.

“We just have to be careful that we don’t make it so restrictive that we can’t have it anywhere it town,” Pomeroy said, saying it is illegal to zone things out of existence because they are disliked.

“Would I want my neighbor in my residential neighborhood to have a 250-foot windmill to power his home? Probably not…I think there’s some middle ground there,” Pomeroy said.

He said the commission will likely discuss Rielly’s letter at its next meeting, August 3.