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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 18, 2009

Wind in sails of master-plan review crew?

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — With the town’s 20-year-old comprehensive land-use plan in review, the town board recently took a step to diversify the committee charged with this re-examination.

Victor Porlier, a pro-wind town resident with his own private renewable energy system, was appointed to the town’s comprehensive plan review committee last week, currently headed by Jim Cooke, who has been vocally anti-wind.

“I think having two different points of view is a good thing,” Supervisor Kevin Crosier said this week. “I think that Mr. Cooke and Mr. Porlier are both very intelligent men who have the community’s best interest at heart, and I think the two of them working together will find us a solution for alternative energies coming to our town.”

Porlier owns North Country Advisors, where he holds the title of strategic planning consultant. His résumé includes work at not-for-profits, think tanks, varied levels of government, colleges, and financial services.

He and his wife, Lois Porlier, have a windmill and four solar panels on their property in Berne, and have been harnessing renewable energy since the ’90s. [For more on the Porliers’ home-energy system, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, under archives for Dec. 4, 2008.]

Porlier said that, with respect to renewable energy and its place in the comprehensive plan, he thinks wind-power should be separated into three categories.

“First is individual residential use,” he said, “and I am passionate about that, but there are a lot of other considerations. It’s one thing where I live, and I’m quite a distance from my neighbors. But if I lived close to people, and I put this incredibly loud, noise-producing machine up, that wouldn’t be appropriate.”

The second, he said, would be wind-power produced on a slightly larger scale for local use. “This would be something along the lines of, say, a group of homeowners wanted to create a district where they would put a windmill up,” Porlier said.

“And finally, there’s industrial, where you’re putting up a huge farm,” he went on. “There’re an awful lot of things that have to be considered — what does it mean for the community? What does it mean for viewshed? What does it mean for noise? My small turbine has never killed any birds or bats in the 10 years I’ve had it, but these larger ones might.”

Chairman Cooke could not be reached for comment.

While the issue of renewable energy has become particularly heated in the Hilltowns since Shell WindEnergy tried to line the Helderbergs with its massive turbines, this is merely part of an overall review of the comprehensive plan, Crosier said.

“There’re a lot of other things facing our community besides energy issues, like suburban sprawl,” said Crosier. “One only has to look at the rural communities around us to see the rapid growth that’s happened, and we need to protect ourselves against that rapid growth.”

The committee will soon be sending out a questionnaire to town residents, in an effort to reach out to the community and ask what sorts of changes they would like to see in the overall review of the plan.

“I’m kind of anxious; I think the two of them will make a good team, as strange as that sounds,” Crosier concluded. “Even though they have different views, they may be the two people who can put this all together in the end.”

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