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Zoning pushed closer to reality in town of Charlotte  

A zoning law for the town of Charlotte may be in place by the end of June.

Following a lengthy review of the municipality’s proposed zoning program, town officials recently approved the plan and authorized William Duncanson, town attorney, to complete the State Environmental Quality Review.

With plans for a wind turbine development confined to the wings until zoning is in place, officials say they hope the law can be enacted in June.

In a comment following the two-hour session, Duncanson said the environmental project ‘‘will probably take at least two months to complete.’’ In addition, he said, ‘‘the data must be reviewed and approved by the county before the Town Board can move ahead with a public hearing and action.’’

During the meeting, officials came up with a number of questions and comments as they leafed through the final draft of the 89-page document. Duncanson and Dave Crossley, the town’s building code officer – both of whom worked closely with the Charlotte Zoning Commission – were on hand to answer questions.

Duncanson said the lead agency for the SEQR would be the Town Board, as per the board’s request. Originally, he said, the Zoning Board of Appeals had been listed as the lead agency.

Duncanson said the final draft also included a section governing woodlot management, an item that had been included within the town’s comprehensive plan. The section was inadvertently omitted from earlier drafts of the zoning plan, he said.

Proposed zoning regulations would require a landowner or group of landowners to obtain special use permits, before undertaking clear-cutting projects on large woodlots of more than 20 acres that would culminate in the removal of 80 percent of trees on those tracts. The permit would require individuals or groups to submit plans for remediation that would prevent soil erosion, runoff, and other environmental problems.

Harper said he had initially opposed the section, ‘‘but now I completely support it. … We’ve never had anyone clear that amount of land or cut that amount of timber, but you never know what’s ahead. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.’’

Duncanson also pointed out that in the future, the town might wish to consider the establishment of a planning board.

‘‘It’s something the board might keep on the back burner,’’ he said.

Councilwoman Varsi Peterson agreed, noting the role of a planning board would be ‘‘very important in shaping town growth. It’s something we should work on.’’

The meeting ended with Mrs. Peterson’s request that a section of the proposed zoning relating to operations of Wind Energy Conservation Systems be reviewed by an attorney grounded in wind energy law.

‘‘While attending an informational meeting on wind systems,’’ she said, ‘‘I learned a number of communities are going this route. I think we all agree the town’s zoning commission – with the help of Bill (Duncanson) and Dave (Crossley) – has done a great job in coming up with our zoning plan. … Their work has saved us thousands of dollars. But I believe a second legal review of the wind energy section (of the zoning plan) would be worthwhile. I’ve been informed costs would be picked up by the wind energy company – in our case, UPC Wind Management.’’

According to figures submitted to the board by Mrs. Peterson, the legal service could be provided for about $400 an hour. She said she had learned that a number of communities were opting for second reviews of regulations dealing with wind systems.

The official said she had been informed the town would ultimately be reimbursed for costs of the review by the wind energy company, after the firm’s application to operate a wind turbine system is submitted to the Town Board. Meanwhile, she said it was her understanding the cost would be held in escrow.

Noting the town’s zoning law was not yet in place, and that there is no agreement with the energy company at this time, Duncanson said he was ‘‘completely against the legal review. There is no way this expense would be covered by the company,’’ he said.

At that point, town resident Merle Goot noted that UPC Wind Management —selected more than three months ago by town property owners to develop a town wind energy project – had only recently established its first meteorology tower. ‘‘Data must be collected for a year before the project can move forward,’’ he said.

Bochmann recommended the board reconsider the review ‘‘later on, at a time when we are further along in the process.î’’ The councilman also suggested Mrs. Peterson come up with information from officials of communities that have completed such legal reviews. Mrs. Peterson then ended the discussion with a pledge to obtain further information, which would be provided to the board at a later date.

Alpha Husted

The Post-Journal

13 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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