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10 Cities That Bent Over Backward For Big Projects

Tug Hill, N.Y.
Project: Wind power
It's never a good sign when documentary crews come into your town looking to use it as a cautionary tale.

Yet that's the role Tug Hill has been assigned in the documentary Windfall. Located in New York's Lewis County, where there are scant zoning rules and part-time local governments, Tug Hill is now home to the huge Maple Ridge wind farm that paid out $1.2 million in local taxes during its first year in operation and promised another $400,000 more in taxes each year. The farmers below, meanwhile, get $6,000 to $10,000 a year for each tower, while some residents get as much as $1,000 a year for the towers' effect on their view.

The 195 turbines stand on towers 400 feet high. Their blades spin at 150 miles an hour. As the documentary points out, however, such turbines can collapse and catch fire, and local fire departments are ill equipped to do anything about them. They throw off chunks of ice in the winter, cause sunlight to flicker during the summer and make a sound akin to airplane noise all year long.

The noise and view seem to be the sticking point for folks who aren't getting paid for land use. It's also driven up tax assessments in the area, which isn't sitting well with taxpayers. The windmills generate tax money for the community, but residents say they're not seeing reduction in taxes as a result. They're also not getting any of the power from the mills, which serve 100,000 houses in the surrounding area but none in Tug Hill.

At best, it's created a bit of a nuisance on the way to energy independence. At worst, it's divided a community. Still, there's a way it could be much worse:

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