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Wind farm plan generates both fans, foes

| Sunday, April 14, 2013, 6:54 p.m.

NORTH EAST — Some Northwestern Pennsylvania residents want limits placed on the size of wind turbines that can be built in their area and a ban on commercial windmills within a mile of any neighborhood.

Neighbors For A Responsible North East also wants developers required to set aside money to cover any depreciation in private property after a wind farm is built and the cost to remove nonfunctional turbines, The Erie Times-News said.

One of the organizers, Paul Crowe, said members are trying to spread the word about plans to build a commercial wind farm in North East Township before any ordinances are considered.

“The thing we've been trying to promote is delay of any kind of decision for at least 60 days, so there's time for people in the community to get a grasp of what's going on,” he said.

Crowe said township planners and supervisors said in late March that they were considering an ordinance regulating wind farm development.

More than two years ago, Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy started leasing land in North East Township and put up a test tower to gauge the wind along the ridge south of Interstate 90 in the summer of 2011. Vice President Adam Cohen said last fall that a yearlong test indicated that the wind is strong enough and sustained enough to power turbines.

Crowe and fellow organizer Matt Putman said commercial wind turbines would lower property values and could threaten the health and safety of township residents and wildlife — and they're unsightly.

“There isn't enough open space in North East Township to hide those out of the way. Every place you stand in North East Township, you're going to see windmills,” Putman said.

They want any windmills limited to a height of 250 feet, including the upright blade, and banned within 1,300 feet of any road or commercial or residential property line.

But Tim Burch and other residents support wind farm development. Burch, who has leased property to Pioneer Green Energy, said royalties won't make him rich but might help him continue to farm his 260 acres.

“What farmers will gain is a supplement to the income that they have, that might help us carry on the tough farming tradition,” Burch said. “It might make the difference on whether a farmer decides to carry on into the next generation, or plant houses and forget about the tough life of farming.”

Burch said he supports restrictions on where wind turbines can be built but does not back all of the group's recommendations, including the call for developers to cover private property depreciation that he considers impractical.

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