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Kirkland panel wants wind turbine moratorium

Spring Farm CARES, a nonprofit Kirkland animal sanctuary, will have to wait anywhere from a few months to a year before the town makes a decision on its wind turbines proposal, the Kirkland Planning Board determined Monday night.

Bonnie Jones Reynolds, executive director of Spring Farm CARES, asked board members to approve the nonprofit’s proposal before winter.

But Chairman Howard Madden said the town should formally amend its zoning ordinance first, to allow for wind turbines with appropriate restrictions.

The Planning Board decided it will ask the Town Board in October for a moratorium on any wind turbine projects. The moratorium, lasting up to one year, will give the town a chance to conduct a formal study on the effects of wind turbines and then amend the ordinance.

Board members hope to have a decision for Spring Farm CARES in three to six months, but don’t want to rush the process.

“We do not want to go ahead and make a decision that we’ll be sorry for later,” said Planning Board member Francis Lallier. Codifying a consistent policy is important, board members agreed.

Madden said the board will review how it handled a previous moratorium, which was placed on cell phone tower projects, at its October meeting. Then the board will draft the letter to the Town Board.

In the last month, the Planning Board received more than 100 letters from town residents voicing their opinions on the wind turbines project, Madden said. Most people supported it.

“It would be hard for me to imagine an ordinance that would preclude what you want to do, or even change it that much,” said Planning Board member John Hecklau.

The proposed height of the three turbines was one of the board’s main concerns Monday night.

Representatives from Spring Farm CARES and from Endicott-based contractor ETM Solar Works said the towers would be most efficient and cost-effective at 140 feet tall, with blades adding another 10 1/2 feet to each tower.

Board members want to know whether the nonprofit can get by with 100- or 120-foot towers, and asked for a cost-benefit analysis for each potential height. The board must balance the interests of Spring Farm CARES with those of neighbors, board members said.

Five families opposing the project attended Monday’s meeting.

“I purposely faced my house to the north so I could have that view,” Brian Savicki of Snowden Hill Road said after the meeting, pointing to a photograph of the mountains he sees from his yard.

Board members mentioned studies that show wind turbines do not hurt property values, but Savicki and others are not convinced.

John Moynihan of Route 12 said he would think twice about buying a piece of property if wind turbines obstructed the view. He said he chose to live in Kirkland because there were no power lines or wind turbines.

“My taxes are almost $10,000 a year, and I don’t live in the village,” Moynihan said. “So what am I getting? My view.”

Reynolds refused to comment after the meeting. Margot Unkel, Spring Farm CARES assistant director, said if the board wanted to institute a moratorium, she wished it had acted after the first hearing in June. Monday night was the nonprofit’s fourth time in front of the Planning Board.

By Stephanie Veale