2/3/10 BROWN COUNTY SPECIAL: Town of Holland local government uses the power it has while it still has it: moratorium on wind farm construction passes
Town of Holland votes for wind-farm moratorium.
Opponents of Invenergy project hope others follow.
Green Bay Press-Gazette, www.greenbaypressgazette.com
February 3, 2010
By Scott Williams,
Opponents of a proposed wind farm in southern Brown County hope the town of Holland is just the first municipality to set a one-year ban on wind farm construction.
Chicago-based Invenergy LLC submitted an application to state regulators in October for permission to develop the Ledge Wind Energy Project within four neighboring towns in southern Brown County. The plan calls for 54 wind turbines in Morrison, 22 in Holland, 20 in Wrightstown and four in Glenmore.
The Holland Town Board voted 3-0 Monday night to impose a one-year moratorium and increase from 1,000 feet to 2,640 feet — equal to a half-mile — how far any wind turbines must be set back from neighboring properties.
Despite the vote, it’s unclear whether local moratoriums or other potential obstacles will have any effect.
The state Public Service Commission has authority to approve such developments regardless of what local officials want, PSC spokesman Tim Le Monds said.
“It trumps anything at the local level,” he said.
The state has not acted on the application yet and is expected to hold public hearings later this year.
But a leading organizer of the opposition in Brown County said Tuesday he believes moratoriums at least will slow the project, so that residents can study and debate the proposal.
“It does send a message,” said Jon Morehouse, spokesman for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy.
The Invenergy development would be Brown County’s first major commercial wind farm. With the capacity to generate enough electricity to power about 40,000 homes, it also would be larger than any wind farm operating in Wisconsin.
Supporters say the project would bring economic development and clean energy to the area, while opponents fear the intrusion and potential health hazards of the 400-foot-tall spinning turbines.
Invenergy spokesman Kevin Parzyck said the company is following a state regulatory approval process that allows local residents ample opportunity to voice their feelings about the project.
Noting that company officials had not yet seen the Holland Town Board’s latest action, Parzyck said company officials believe their proposal has strong support locally. But he also said the company does not dismiss signs of opposition from local elected leaders.
“We are very sensitive to community needs and desires,” he said.
Holland Chairman Jerry Wall said he believes that at least 50 percent of the town’s residents oppose the Invenergy project. The board action was intended to reflect that, he said.
Wall acknowledged, however, that state regulators might not abide by the town’s wishes.
“They can walk right over you,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Opponents are pushing for similar moratoriums in Morrison, Wrightstown and Glenmore, too. None of those town boards have scheduled votes on the issueyet.
Glenmore Chairman Don Kittell, who has voiced support for the Invenergy project, said he questioned whether a moratorium would have any effect on state regulators. He also said it likely would prompt Invenergy to file a lawsuit that would cost the town money to defend its actions in court.
“Why go through all the hassle?” he said. “It isn’t going to work — not unless you’ve got any money.”