Wind project opponents say Avangrid’s proposed project is tearing friends and families apart in Parishville, Hopkinton
By MATT LINDSEY
From stares and mumblings at public meetings to stolen wind signs and frequent opposing opinion pieces in North Country This Week, Avangrid’s proposed 40-turbine wind farm has impacted friendships and family relationships in Parishville and Hopkinton.
Some anti-wind tower residents have created new friendships through the Concerned Citizens for Rural Preservation (CCRP) that opposes the proposed North Ridge Wind Farm. In other cases, a rift has been created between long-time acquaintances and family members who are on opposite sides of the wind turbine debate.“Some people aren’t the same toward each other in public,” said Hopkinton resident wind opponent Janice Pease, who plans to run for the town board this fall. “Some of my family who are pro-wind have said they are no longer calling me family; which if they choose money over health and family, then I guess we have little in common anyway.”
“For those of us who have educated ourselves on the swindle of wind farms -- it is hard to understand how people could sell out their community for money,” Hopkinton resident Kelly Pullano said.
Parishville resident Gary Snell Sr., who is also against building the wind farm, says that he is upset with the way the project started. “They (Avangrid) contacted landowners prior to talking to the towns.”
“I’ve seen division between friends who are no longer speaking – family issues,” Snell said. “Very few will benefit from the project.”
“I hope they do what they say they are going to do,” Parishville resident Lori Witherall said about Avangrid’s plan to build only 40 towers. She, and other anti-wind residents fear that the 40 towers is just the beginning of a larger-scale wind facility. “People up here take them (Avangrid) at their word – it’s not an intelligence issue, it’s the city versus country lifestyle,” Witherall said.
Impact on Family and Friends
Snell said he had seen some harassing posts online, but no direct threats. Snell was more concerned with getting information out to the public and welcomed people of all opinions to attend wind-related meetings.
Snell took exception to advertisements in local newspapers pitting Parishville and Hopkinton residents against each other and said accusations against the CCRP, which he is the chairs of, were “unfortunate.” The group has been accused of making threats, derogatory comments and stealing pro-wind signs.
Snell said that wind turbine leaseholders are the “minority” and that they “should not control the welfare of the entire community.”
Parishville resident Will Dailey describes himself as a “wind widower.” His wife, Luke Dailey, is very much alive but spends countless hours devoted to researching wind towers and informing the public, he said.
“We’ve met good people – no matter what happens,” Mrs. Dailey said.
“I have met some incredible individuals who are like-minded and willing to fight for our community,” Pullano said.
Mrs. Dailey said she was aware of one threat made toward her group. “You’re going to get lynched – I am surprised your haven’t been lynched yet,” Mrs. Dailey said about a conversation that allegedly took place at a local gas station between a relative of a leaseholder and an anti-wind resident.
Mrs. Dailey said many from her group have travelled to other wind farms in the state to speak with residents and claim that “people are still not speaking – even seven or eight years later.” “There are fights at Christmas dinner.”
Some Plan to Move
If the wind farm comes, “I will move,” Witherall said with tears in her eyes. “We will definitely move – my husband will be retiring soon and we won’t be able to enjoy our home.”
Pullano says she and her family plan to move too if the wind farm is built. “I enjoy the small town, small school and everything else that comes with small town living.”
“My family of six moved here over 13 years ago because we love nature and all that goes with it, Pullano said. “Once we litter our horizons with flashing lights and the ‘whoosh whoosh’ of the windmills, we will never have it back.”
“Since I found out about the North Ridge Wind project, about a year and a half ago, my life has completely changed,” Pease said. “It seems pointless to see long-term plans though and make investments in our property, knowing that once they are here our property will be worth considerably less, regardless of improvements.”
Clarkson University professors Martin Heintzelman and Carrie Tuttle studied over 11,000 real estate transactions over nine years in Northern New York to explore the impact new wind facilities have on property values. The conclusion was that the value of property near wind turbines dropped in Clinton and Franklin counties — but they found no impact in Lewis County.
The results indicate that existing compensation to local homeowners/communities may not be sufficient to prevent a loss of property values, the professors said of the study.
“I am not naive enough to believe that Avangrid will stay in compliance, the monitoring is not adequate, response time is terrible according to testimony, and there really is no incentive to stay in compliance with only a $350 fine,” Pease said.
Pease believes that a 35dBA will be too high. “I will not submit my children to this manmade low-frequency and infrasound. I believe in precautionary thinking and will move to avoid any foreseeable harm to my family.”
Snell said the towers will likely not be viewed from his home, but will be for many of his family and friends. “I am not fighting to protect my own home, I am fighting for residents.”
Snell has no plans to move away – but said he has heard rumors that some in the Amish community “would be inclined to move away” if Avangrid builds a wind farm here.
Health, Environment, Aesthetics, and Money
It can be difficult distinguishing fact from fiction with so many differing “expert” opinions online and testimonials from both sides.
“First of all, we do try to substantiate everything that we hear,” Witherall said. “Secondly, we try to consider the source -- if it is put out by the wind industry and not an independent researcher, there is much more skepticism because their bottom line is to promote these projects rather than tell the truth
“After researching industrial wind turbines, for well over a year now, I can say the disadvantages greatly outweigh the benefits,” Pease said. “The environmental price for these enormous industrial turbines is disgusting, especially since they are being pushed as the green solution to global warming.”
Pease claims industrial wind turbines contribute to global warming – “their carbon footprint is a joke,” she said.
Pease says the fact that millions of trees are cut during the erection of industrial turbine power facilities should alarm people. “Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which influences our planet’s climate, so if the argument for turbines is to reduce global warming, this is something that needs to be considered.”
Pease also cited pollution produced manufacturing turbines, toxic lakes and dead zones from mining minerals, the environmental cost of transporting materials, the disposal of the turbines, aquifer/water contamination, habitat loss, and death of wildlife.
“These companies use desperation as a bargaining chip knowing full well money is the bottom line for a lot of people and in the end this isn’t about the environment,” Pease said.
“Our group is very concerned about the future of our planet and we are very concerned about global warming,” Witherall said. “We agree that alternative energy sources must be utilized and we agree that we all need to do our part to cut back on the amount of energy and natural resources we use. In fact, several members of our group are proponents of solar energy and, of course, hydro.”
Pullano says she would like to see a minimum setback of 2,500 feet, 35dBA day and night, and that the overlay zone should not expand south of SH 72 as it is “too close to the Adirondack Park – too many wetlands and bedrock.”
If the towers are built, Witherall would accept 35 dBA at night but is concerned that current setback proposals are not restrictive enough. “Residents in Chateaugay claim 2,500 feet is not far enough.”
Snell said if the towers do end up in the two towns, that he would like to see a 2,500-foot setback, 35dBA at night and 40dBA daytime, but it is “strongly opposed” to a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, generally much less than the normal tax rate). “They should pay (taxes) like the rest of us.”
Snell said that wind companies mislead the community about tax reduction. “It’s just not a fact,” he said.
“No PILOT,” Pullano exclaimed. “Why should we give more money away to the already highly subsidized wind company? If it happens, they need to pay full tax assessments. It is up to Allen Fukes (town tax assessor) to figure this out. He cannot just say everyone else has a PILOT. Our residents have overwhelmingly expressed no PILOT.”
“Why won’t they accept land at the taxed value … why aren't they willing to pay?” Witherall asks.
The Town of Parishville has told Avangrid that they are not interested in a PILOT.
For some, just the sight of the towers is enough of a turn off to not want the wind farm.
“I don't want to look at them,” Pullano said. She did note that the towers, as proposed now, will not be visible from her home.
“They are unsightly – the sound impacts and flicker effect are proven,” Snell said. “Our quiet community will be invaded by these towers. I don't want it to look like Chateuagay in a few years.”
Hundreds of people living near wind farms have claimed to suffer from wind turbine syndrome. The symptoms include dizziness, mild nausea, insomnia, difficulty breathing, and/or headaches.
The World Health Organization, which classifies diseases, does not recognize wind turbine syndrome, nor does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pease cautions residents to get informed.
“Research this company (Avangrid) and fraud issues, lawsuits, compliance issues, forest fires, and water contamination, Pease warned. “Research the towns that have gone before us and now live with health complaints like Falmouth turbines in Massachusetts, Hardscrabble Wind Farm in Herkimer, and the many more worldwide.”
“Leaseholders don't’ know what they've signed,” Witherall said. “We don't blame them – we blame the wind company (for how they went about getting leases signed).”
“They (wind developers) target rural areas with no or poor zoning,” Dailey said. “It’s in their playbook.”