Coventry windmill project whips up controversy

COVENTRY – Despite growing opposition, Coventry intends to proceed with its plan to power its town hall by harnessing the wind, according to Town Supervisor John Phelan.

“We haven’t bid it out yet,” the supervisor reported Monday, when asked about the status of the town’s windmill project. In May, Coventry’s town board authorized Phelan to seek proposals for installation of a 153-foot tall, 10kW wind turbine to generate power for the town hall and senior center.

“I expect we’ll be out to bid no later than the September board meeting,” he said.

Phelan asserts that the majority of Coventry’s town residents are in favor of the plan, including those who live adjacent to the property. But following a statement the town supervisor made on air during an interview with a local television station, where he said all of the “immediate neighbors” were in support of the initiative, more and more people are speaking out in opposition.

One of those townspeople is John VanSteenburg, who owns 24 acres adjacent to the town park. According to VanSteenburg, the area the town has staked out for the tower is only 10 to 15 feet from his property line, and less than 150 feet from the home his mother occupies on the property. His own home is approximately 300 feet from the site, he said.

“He asked me for my support and I didn’t give it to him,” VanSteenburg said, recalling a conversation he had with Phelan earlier in the year.

VanSteenburg says his opposition to the project is not fueled by a “not in my back yard” mentality or, as Phelan has suggested, politically motivated. The 25-year Coventry resident said he has nothing against wind energy, but questions the decision to put the windmill so close to the town park.

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