ITHACA, NY - The Tompkins County Legislature chambers were standing room only on Thursday as residents from across the county came to speak about a resolution regarding the Black Oak Wind Farm project in Enfield.
The resolution at hand was largely a symbolic one. Titled, "In Support of the Timely Development of the Black Oak Wind Farm Project in the Town of Enfield," the resolution would hold no power to compel the town of Enfield toward any specific action in regard to the wind farm. Rather, it would simply acknowledge that the county supported the project moving forward in a timely manner. The project has currently been in various states of progress for over a decade.
Approximately 25 members of the public spoke, with about 18 speaking in favor of the resolution. Several legislators also spoke in favor of the resolution, but reminded the assembled public that the fate of the project ultimately sat with the Enfield Town Board and urged them to attend town board meetings and speak with board members.
Many of the people that spoke and the points they made were repeats of what was heard at a heated meeting in Enfield in December.
As at the December meeting, most who spoke in favor of the wind farm were not Enfield residents, and about half of them were investors in the project. Similarly, most of those who spoke against the wind farm were the same Enfield residents who spoke against it in December.
Thursday's meeting was comparably tame despite the turnout. Many legislators said they appreciated the community's investment in the issue and the respectful manner in which the discourse was handled.
Most who spoke against the resolution made an important distinction about their position. They said were not against the wind farm, or against green energy -- many counted themselves environmentalists themselves -- but were concerned about the safety implications of the project.
In particular, the issue of setbacks -- how far a wind turbine must be from a home -- remains a contentious topic. Proponents say that the setbacks are within established guidelines for safety and sound.
Opponents point to setbacks in other parts of the US, other countries and even in turbine manufacturer guidelines being much greater, using that as evidence that their concerns about safety and noise pollution are real and acknowledged by other governing bodies.
Others who spoke took a more neutral position, urging legislators to vote against the resolution because they felt it might unfairly sway the ultimate decision of the Enfield Town Board.
After almost two hours of discussion, the resolution passed 13-0, with Legislator Dooley Keifer abstaining due to her status as an investor in the project.
The resolution underwent one small change. The original language resolved, "That the Tompkins County Legislature supports the development of the Black Oak Wind Farm Project without further delay."
The "without further delay" was changed to "in a timely manner," to reaffirm that project was Enfield's decision and that the legislature was not trying to push the project forward without allowing the town time to do its due diligence.
While the resolution was a symbolic one and many of the arguments presented were retreads of ones already brought forth, the meeting did shed some new light on the Black Oak Wind Farm and its relationship with the town of Enfield and Tompkins County.