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Newton puts limits on turbines

Wind energy developers can put turbines in the township’s hills, but an ordinance enacted Monday night will give Newton officials a say in where they spin.

According to the new ordinance, wind turbines cannot be taller than 300 feet, louder than 45 A-weighted decibels or closer than 1,500 feet to neighboring properties. Turbines must be set back from the tops of prominent ridges and avoid “adverse visual impacts” on nearby residential areas. They should cast only minimal flickering shadows on occupied buildings.

Supervisor Ron Koldjeski called the ordinance one of the supervisors’ “more proactive measures.”

“We’re not stopping anyone from doing it if they want to,” he said. “We’re just making sure it’s done right.”

The ordinance comes two months after a wind energy company, Global Winds Harvest, approached supervisors about putting between 15 and 20 turbines on Bald and West mountains.

The company was interested in a parcel that is currently zoned agricultural, but the new ordinance would place turbines in manufacturing zones. Developers would need a variance to build turbines in zones not allowed in the ordinance.

The company has not contacted the supervisors since the informal meeting in early October, Mr. Koldjeski said. But it made the supervisors think about what turbines in Newton should look like.

He outlined two specific features: “They should be as non-intrusive as possible and when their life expectancy is over, they are taken down,” he said.

The ordinance supervisors passed Monday includes a detailed section on decommissioning turbines, which allows a one-year period for old turbines to be dismantled and removed after they are no longer in use.

The supervisors also emphasized the complete removal of tall structures in a second ordinance they passed Monday regulating new antennas. The ordinance includes a clause that makes an antenna owner pay a bond to cover the structure’s eventual removal.

“It makes the people who are making money on it liable, not the taxpayers 40 years down the road,” Supervisor Gary Martenson said.

In other business, the supervisors passed ordinances to offer a deferred retirement option plan to township police officers and nonuniformed workers. The supervisors also approved a 2008 budget that does not increase taxes.

By Laura Legere
Staff Writer

The Times-Tribune

11 December 2007