VILLENOVA – Standing in a circle in front of the Villenova Town Hall, surrounded by people for and against the Ball Hill Wind project, the Villenova Town Board voted 4-0, with one abstention, to approved changes to the project.
There were so many people at Wednesday’s meeting that the building was filled to capacity with another approximately 60 people standing outside.
Supervisor Richard Ardillo opened the meeting by saying the outdoor meeting was a first for him.
People draped in shirts supporting the project gathered on one side of the lawn while people with signs and shirts opposing modifications to the plan filled the rest of the yard.
The project, which was previously approved, is increasing the height of the wind turbines from 495 feet tall to 568 feet tall, and increase the blade sweep from 126 meters to 136 meters, according to information from the Renewable Energy Systems (RES). RES is the company behind the project.
Project Manager Mark Lyons explained to WNYNewsNow that more advanced turbines will allow for more energy creation, making the turbines even more viable.
He said that the taller turbines will actually be quieter than the previously proposed shorter ones. Critics of the plan say the new turbines are the biggest ever used on land in North America and have not been tested for land use.
Residents also listed a concern that the turbines will be as close as 600 feet from residences and roadways.
“We want them to vote no, no increase,” Tina Graziano told WNYNewsNow.
Opponents have vowed to take their fight to the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Association and ask the IDA to eliminate the projects Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). Instead, people said, without PILOT payments, the project should be taxed at actual tax value.
Opponents also said the project will take value from neighboring properties and usurp frontage rights.
“The turbines go through rigorous testing to get their type certification. They’re perfectly safe in themselves, ” Lyons said.
Another modification to the plan will move transmission lines from above ground using 80-feet poles, to underground, reducing impact to trees and leading to the elimination of a substation.
Critics say the project’s noise can cause health-related issues and cause more birds and bats to die.
Several people told WNYNewsNow that in the winter the turbines can throw ice from the blades as far as 1,640 feet.
One town resident said the project modifications make it a new project which should start all over as a new project, not as changes to the original plan.
WNYNewsNow’s Justin Gould and Rory Pollaro contributed to this report.