“The law needs to be more specific,” was the general sentiment at the standing-room -only public hearing in Spafford where concerned residents, television cameras and others gathered Thursday to comment on the proposed wind turbine regulations.
Town supervisor Webb Stevens opened the meeting by saying the proposed regulations were for personal use only, as there are four pending applications for the construction of personal turbines and the planning board has no regulations to guide them. He said that the board was not prepared to discuss commercial turbines and asked those that wanted to speak to keep their comments to small, personal turbines.
This remark was all but ignored as residents voiced concerns that allowing small turbines would open the door to large, commercial wind farms.
The proposed laws do not contain any language identifying the turbines as “personal” or “small” and did not limit the turbines’ height or power output.
Sandra Weigel of Bacon Hill Road opened the public comment period by asking the board the height and power output of the turbines. Stevens answered that they weren’t expecting any to be constructed more than 10 kilowatts and that most would be in between 1.3 and 5 kilowatts. Weigel asked where in the regulations that was stated.
“We’re not protected,” she said. She continued that the regulations were not clear enough and that they needed to have specific numbers to protect the area from large commercial wind turbines.
“The vague nature of this law is opening the door for them to put an industrial wind farm on their property,” she said, referring to Feskos, who have expressed an interest in wind energy.
Niether Chris Fesko nor her husband Rick were present at the meeting, an absence explained by Stevens as a ‘devastating family loss.’
Some residents said the Feskos had been planning to build the turbines for many years and were not planning on letting the public know about their plans.
“My mother is not running a conspiracy,” Chris Fesko’s daughter, Kim said in defense of the remarks. She continued that the Fesko Farm has always been concerned with the wellfare of the community and has never operated in secret. Kim said that if and when a turbine is constructed on the Fesko property, there will be a public information session and a tour to a windmill.
Ted Lavery, a neighbor to the Feskos, defended the family, saying, “It has been a privilege to live near the Feskos. Nobody works harder than them.” He went on to say that some wind power should be allowed, but it “would be helpful to the town government if there were some regulations.”
“I wouldn’t want to be on your site committee,” he said, citing that there were no regulations in regard to height, power or density in the proposed laws to guide anyone reviewing the applications.
Skaneateles Town Supervisor Phil Tierney agreed that the regulations were not clear cut and was worried about the negative impact on Skaneateles. He was also surprised that the Town of Skaneateles had not been alerted of the public hearing personally by the Spafford board. “Normally, we receive personal notice from adjacent towns when they are considering legislation the impact of which extends beyond their borders,” it said in a letter he presented a letter to Stevens and the board. The letter also shared some of the concerns of the Town of Skaneateles (see sidebar).
Rosanne Gay, a 36-year Spafford resident, came prepared with medical research on “wind turbine syndrome,” which she described as similar to insomnia, with symptoms including anxiety, anger, and fatigue.
In the end, the general consensus among residents was that the regulations needed to be more specific. Stevens said the laws were meant for personal-use wind turbines, but according to Mary Bean of Becker Road, “None of us got that message from the document you put out.”
Another resident who did not identify himself mentioned that the law stated “all power transmission lines from the WECS electricity generation facilities to on-site substations shall be underground,” indicating a commercial operation.
One resident suggested the board look at other area towns’ turbine regulations.
Stevens said they had based the regulations on the Town of Marcellus’ laws regarding turbines. The Marcellus laws do not contain any height or power restrictions, but the deputy town clerk Laurie Stevens said she was not aware of any wind turbine applications ever being filed in the town.
The town of Skaneateles has no wind turbine regulations. Tierney said that the town may draft some in the near future to prevent a similar situation.
Stevens closed the hearing by saying that the board would take another look at the laws and make some adjustments based on what the residents had said.
Suggestions made to the Spafford town board from the Town of Skaneateles:
1) Designate places of aesthetic significance within the Town, such as the ridgeline along lake. These areas are in need of special protection from wind towers. E.g. Hudson River Valley.
2) Specify maximum tower height
3) Impose numerical setbacks that will better insure compatibility with adjacent uses. The Town of Lebanon in Madison County requires setbacks of 1,000 feet from adjacent properties and public roads.
4) Require that ancillary building be out of materials that are in harmony with landscape.
5) Require both planning board and ZBA to use DEC’s visual assessment policy to mitigate visual impact.
6) Specify the detailed requirements for submission with an application such as a project summary, site plan, certification that all structures comply with industry standards, and completed SEQRA form.
7) Provide for specific standards of review by ZBA such as minimum visual impact within project view shed, mandatory determination that there will be no adverse impact on significant viewscape, a finding the tower locations do not create any incompatibility with adjacent uses and failure to meet these standards is grounds for denial of application.
By Abbey Woodcock
15 July 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding