LYME – “Much ado about nothing.”
Paul E. Carr, a Lyme resident and professor of engineering at Cornell University, Ithaca, used that phrase to describe the debate about an open-ended answer on the wind zoning amendment survey the Lyme Planning Board circulated in summer 2007.
Mr. Carr said that while the wording of the answers “Turbines should not be near the waterfront” could have been more clear, it was at the end of a list of increasing distances.
“The most basic logical reasoning could see the intent of being more than 4,500 feet,” he said.
A second question on the distances from population centers, such as the village of Chaumont and the hamlet of Three Mile Bay, also had the open-ended answer.
Mr. Carr said in his field of engineering management, he frequently does behavioral science research involving tools such as surveys.
Voters for Wind members have called the survey invalid because of the open-ended answer.
Mr. Carr completed the statistical analysis and wrote a report on the results for the town. The survey had 913 usable returned surveys, out of about 2,300 potential responses from residents in the town. Over half selected the open-ended answer for the setback question – 479 for the waterfront question and 495 for the population center question.
Planning Board member Albert H. Bowers read all of the comments of those who had selected the answer to determine what the respondent felt in regard to setback distances. He said about 90 percent made additional comments and those all indicated that the respondents wanted the turbines more than a mile away.
The comments read, “Not in Lyme,” or “In the agricultural area east of 12E.” The comments, along with the entire survey, will be available on the town Web site soon.
The survey, designed by the Planning Board last summer, was open to vetting from the public at the board’s meetings.
Mr. Bowers said the surveys informed the Planning Board on two rules: setbacks and noise regulations. In the proposed zoning amendment, the setback is 4,500 feet from the shoreline, from the village of Chaumont and hamlet of Three Mile Bay and the Chaumont River.
The proposed noise regulation would set turbine noise allowed up to five decibels above ambient noise, to be measured at property lines. The Department of Environmental Conservation has said that noise up to that point is tolerable, while above that is intrusive.
Other parts of the proposed zoning law amendment came from laws in other towns. For example, the requirement for a non-reflective finish and no advertising came from the law in Fenner, Mr. Bowers said.
The Planning Board operates under the philosophy that it should protect the town from unregulated development.
“We don’t want to see us run by developers,” Mr. Bowers said.
One wind developer said it would be difficult – if not impossible – to work under the proposed amendment. James H. Madden, project manager for BP Alternative Energy said, “Based on the current ordinance, it’s impossible for us to have turbines in Lyme.”
While the setback requirement would eliminate the area BP was considering for 30 to 60 turbines, “It’s not just the setbacks,” he said. “It’s a number of points – the setbacks, the noise setbacks, requiring property valuations of all the property within a certain distance.”
The property value analysis would require an appraisal of each non-participating property within one mile of each turbine.
Mr. Carr defended the measure, saying it is a necessary baseline measurement for a conflict resolution section.
“It prevents frivolous disputes,” he said. “It protects the developer and the town.”
But Mr. Madden said the requirements would be too much.
“No developer could work under the ordinance,” he said.
The Planning Board and Town Council will hold a third work session on the proposed zoning amendment tonight at 6:30 at the Three Mile Bay fire hall. It will be preceded at 6:15 with a public hearing on extending the moratorium on commercial wind projects.
By Nancy Madden
Times Staff Writer
17 April 2008
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