The Manheim Town Council Monday passed a local law to regulate the location and construction of wind turbines, both large and small. The decision was made at the conclusion of a public hearing held at the Dolgeville Fire Station attended by about 70 residents and non-residents who went back and forth on the potential construction of windmills in the town before the council reached its conclusion.
The public hearing was the second to be held on the ordinance. The first was held last month at the town office building and was attended by an overflow crowd, some for and some against wind energy projects. After listening to the audience, the council decided more tweaking was necessary before the law, which also applies to small wind energy systems and regulates the location of wind measurement towers, was adopted.
“This ordinance is merely a vehicle to regulate the permit process,” Town Supervisor Tim Parisi said. Over the course of the almost three hour public hearing Parisi continued to stress that an application for a wind energy project has not been submitted to the town, and that the passage of the ordinance does not mean that the town will necessarily accept any future application. “This ordinance merely provides regulations in the event a permit is filed with the town, it does not approve any permit nor does it approve the construction of wind turbines,” he said.
New England-based Tamarack Energy has expressed an interest in developing wind turbines along Burrell Road in the town, but is yet to submit an application for the necessary permits. The company is reportedly six months away from submitting such an application.
“I appreciate the efforts of the town council to protect the public health and safety of its citizens by proposing this ordinance,” resident Karen Nagle said. “I feel that this is a good document and a good first step in what I’m sure will be a lengthy and heavily debated process.”
Resident Mark Christensen thanked the town council for looking toward the future. “This ordinance is in the public’s interest, and puts the town at the forefront of some exciting technology. This document allows us to look to the future, which calls for a clean, environment-friendly form of energy. The need for electricity is only going to continue to grow, so we should be putting as much clean energy into the grid as possible.”
Fairfield resident and Manheim landowner Hank Crofoot said he was happy to see some changes were made to the local law, but still had concerns, including the need to require the operator to be responsible for any special emergency training or equipment that might be needed.
“I still see this is another “˜cookie cutter’ document aimed more at accommodating the windmill companies, than actually trying to protect the landowners of the town of Manheim,” he said. “I would still ask that these concerns and questions be fully investigated.”
Resident Van Billings asked the council to change the setback requirements contained in the law, which say wind turbines can not be built closer than 1,250 feet to any residence, school, hospital or health care facility and that turbines can not be built closer than 500 feet to another person’s property line. “This law would make it difficult to sell any lot in the town as a building lot since one could never know if a future wind tower would eliminate their ability to build on his or her own property line,” he said. “The setback requirement should be a universal 1,250 feet from any property boundary, road or dwelling to better protect property owners, who those looking to move here in the future.”
Others had concerns with the decibel level of the noise created by the windmills, to which Parisi said the local law had provisions in which the applicant would have to provide documentation that the decibel level does not exceed 50, as measured averaged over one hour at the closest residence owned by a non-participating landowner. Even more were concerned with the impact the towers would have on wildlife, to which the town supervisor replied that the ordinance requires applicants to perform an environmental impact study, which is then reviewed by the town.
“The purpose of the law is to protect the interests of the residents and the town as a whole,” Parisi said. “We want to protect the interests of the town and limit the impact that the windmills will have on our residents. At the same time, we have to protect the developer’s rights.”
Before the ordinance was adopted the town council had to make the determination that the 16-page law would not have a significant environmental impact in and of itself, but would help avoid or mitigate the impact any wind facilities that may be proposed in the town.
The law will go into effect after it is filed with the New York State Department of State.
By Rob Juteau, Evening Times Staff Writer
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