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County to publicize wind farm regulation options

Attention St. Lawrence County towns. Here’s what you should know about wind farms: The county Planning Board and Environmental Management Council are close to publicizing wind farm regulations towns can adopt. The volunteer advisory boards created the model ordinance to prepare towns for dealing with complicated location, taxing and environmental issues that accompany the massive projects that often bring huge municipal revenues and stir debate among community members.

“We want to give them the framework for analysis,” said John F. Tenbusch, the county planner working closest to the project. “The decision is theirs.”

There are no commercial wind turbines in the county, but the developers of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County are testing conditions on County Route 6 in Hammond.

The model law includes regulations for commercial projects, test towers and small-scale turbines. It’s based on a similar law in Ellenburg, Clinton County, with one great difference.

The proposal urges towns to create zoning or districts for wind farms before being approached by developers. The Ellenburg law allowed developers to dictate where the turbines will be located, Mr. Tenbusch said. Working now on wind zoning allows communities to decide where they want to prohibit projects.

“We want that question to be answered in advance, when you don’t have development pressure,” Mr. Tenbusch said.

The model law does not prohibit commercial projects by limiting size or setback requirements. It permits towers up to 500 feet – which is higher than most commercial turbine blades – that are 500 feet from property boundaries, roads and wetlands or water. Towers have to be more than their length away from other structures.

Sound must be limited to 50 decibels from the nearest off-site building, and blades must swing more than 35 feet from the ground.

The law requires public hearings, environmental studies and repair work to any roads damaged during construction. Wind developers must also plan and have money available to take down the towers.

The ordinance, which is getting a final review this month, will soon be on the county planning office’s Web site, www.co.st-lawrence.ny.us/Planning/SLCPl.htm.

By Corey Fram

Publication: Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, NY)

Publication Date: 06/18/2007