The Hamburg Town Board passed a commercial wind energy ordinance Monday night, making a few changes in the proposed law and clearing the way for BQ Energy’s proposal for six turbines near the Lake Erie shoreline to advance.
The town had put the project on hold, with the threat of a moratorium, while it finished fine-tuning revisions to its 1987 code. That one was created when the towers were considerably smaller than the 250-foothigh or higher structures that are common now.
The measure was welcomed by BQ. Mark Mitskovski, the project manager for the company’s Steelwinds project in Lackawanna and Hamburg, called the ordinance “probably the best wind ordinance in the state.”
“It’s a document that protects everyone,” Mitskovski said. “But more importantly, it provides for dialogue.”
Mitskovski was referring to changes in the ordinance that were in response to his company’s concerns.
Since the public hearing on the ordinance June 11, changes were made that would allow the Planning Board to waive some of the setback rules, such as the 1,500-foot setback from residences. That distance is longer than regulations in most other towns.
The new ordinance also sets maximum sound levels at the equivalent of the average noise that already exists along the waterfront. It previously had set hard limits of 45 and 50 decibels.
Councilman D. Mark Cavalcoli said the board had kept a requirement for wind developers to post a bond to pay for demolition of the turbines if the developer eventually stops operating them.
Mitskovski had argued against that, suggesting it was unnecessary because the scrap metal value of the towers would encourage their removal in that situation.
The Steelwinds project already has eight turbines spinning in Lackawanna, where it has proposed more. It wants to put six in the former Bethlehem Steel brownfields in Hamburg.
Councilwoman Joan Kesner said that if there are more proposals for commercial wind turbines, the new law would allow them to be studied on a case-by-case basis, with input from residents. The turbines are allowed only in industrial zones.
Councilman Thomas Quatroche described the ordinance as a triumph of “the art of compromise. Nobody walks away totally happy.”
But, he said, the law “allows new technology to move forward while putting some limits on it to protect the residents.”
Officials are working on an ordinance to cover residential and small on-site industrial wind installations.
By Elmer Ploetz
News Staff Reporter
26 June 2007
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