Less than two weeks after a Brace Road resident put up a 133-foot windmill, the Town Board held a hearing Monday on a proposed law that would have outlawed that same windmill.
The windmill’s owner, Mark Thorn, came armed with a Power-Point presentation to lobby against the proposed law’s 100-foot height limit on windmills and other restrictions he felt would discourage wind energy.
Afterward, Supervisor Dodie Huber allowed that, “we may want to give it (windmill zoning) back to the Planning Board.”
Planning Board Chairman Terry Wilkins added later, “We’ve heard from the public. We’ll work as a team and make the necessary changes.”
During his presentation before about 25 people, Thorn said a 100-foot height limit would reduce the power a windmill could generate, lengthening the payback period on the owner’s investment, especially those who take advantage of a state subsidy that requires owners to tie their machines to the power grid. That deal allows owners to forego expensive storage batteries for a home system and sell power back to the power company.
Thorn also took issue with a provision that would require towers to be 1 1/2 times their height away from dwellings. Thorn felt that 1 times the height would be sufficient.
Also, Thorn said, the proposed law’s language excluded emerging wind technology like axial, or vertical axis wind generators, a new less obtrusive egg beater design that sits on buildings or closer to the ground than propeller-style windmills.
After the hearing, Wilkins and former Planning Board Chairman Kip Jugle discounted the engineering omissions. “We went from a planning perspective,” said Jugle, whose board compiled the proposed law by adapting language from windmill laws in other towns.
“We were looking at safety and aesthetics,” agreed Wilkins.
Thorn’s neighbor, James Webster, spoke up in favor of wind power. “I like to get up in the morning, take a look at it and say, ‘Free!’ said Webster.
A neighbor to Thorn’s south, Graham Fennie, called the wind “another opportunity, like the geothermal system,” that East Bloomfield installed at Veterans Park to heat the main park building.
“In terms of tower height that extra power is a big deal,” said Fennie. “I would encourage the board to write the law so it can be interpreted on a case by case basis” as wind power technology advances.
Even Thorn’s 10-year-old daughter, Jamie, addressed the board. “I wrote an article for school about wind energy,” she said. “Some teachers saw the report. A couple of them stopped me in the hall. It (a windmill) could help schools save money and energy.”
After the hearing, the Town Board itself quietly weighed in during open session. “Oil went up $10 on Friday,” said Councilman Dave Damaske. “I guess we’d like to see more information.”
“There are a lot of things that have got to be changed,” said Councilman Ron Hawkins: “One (windmill) per parcel? That does not make sense.”
By Morgan Wesson, correspondent
12 June 2008
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