BEEKMANTOWN – Nineteen months and three lawyers later, the Town Council is closing in on regulations for wind-power facilities – and not a moment too soon.
Beekmantown’s extended moratorium, which bars any new wind projects, ends in January.
The first draft of the law is on the table and being reviewed by the councilors until the Nov. 5 meeting.
Since it’s still early, Relation didn’t want to reveal too many details about the law, but he did say that the Town Council has decided to let turbines into agriculturally zoned areas.
“Specifically because the Agricultural Zone has the larger tracks of land,” Relation explained. “That’s not to say that the other zones don’t have large tracks of land, but, generally speaking, the agricultural zone has larger ones.”
For farmers, wind-harvesting development can be a nice financial kick-back.
“I don’t think the town board has a problem with farmers realizing revenue on their property,” Relation said.
Turbines don’t have to be owned by farmers.
“Commercial (wind developers) could build there, but they would have to meet the requirements of the law,” Relation said.
Substantial set-back requirements for the turbines and the property will specifically exclude residential zones, like the R-2 zone where Windhorse Power’s 13-turbine facility has permission to build.
Windhorse Power was not included in the moratorium since the project was already before the Beekmantown Zoning Board of Appeals, awaiting a decision, when the ban was passed.
A definition change in the Beekmantown Zoning Law will keep new turbines from the residential zones.
“Essential services” are currently allowed in every zone and include public utilities, such as electrical substations and “similar facilities that provide essential use and services.”
Under that definition, Windhorse Power was received as a public utility. When the new law is proposed, wind facilities will not be defined as “essential services.”
DISBANDING THE PANEL
Talk of the closing deadline has brought up the idea of dissolving the appointed Citizens Wind Advisory Committee.
The committee was appointed in July 2006 to put together recommendations regarding the effects of wind turbines so the council could draft a law.
That was accomplished last February, shortly before the 12-month moratorium was extended.
“There are a lot of opinions in the town,” said Relation. “I don’t want the Advisory Committee to be seen as writing the law. It is the responsibility of the town board.”
“They’ve done their job,” agreed Councilman Francis Carter.
Bill Klock, a committee member, and Barbara Peacock disagreed.
“I would urge the board not to dissolve the committee,” Klock said. “I think it is would be foolish to do so.”
“The community has worked with you through the committee,” said Peacock.
But Relation worried how the committee might be viewed by the community.
“Probably 70 percent of that committee is involved in an Article 78 (lawsuit) against the town right now, too,” he said. “I can see both sides of this.”
Peacock suggested the committee could answer any questions the Town Council might have during the final stages of the law.
“We could ask them, whether it is still the Advisory Committee or not,” Relation said.
He said some members of the committee have long demonstrated a distrust in the Town Council’s ability to make a sound decision.
For now, the committee stays, but it will be revisited at next week’s Town Council meeting.
By Lucas Blaise
29 October 2007
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