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Logan tightening on turbine rules

Logan Township supervisors moved a step closer to tightening rules governing wind turbines Thursday after compromising with project developers.

By the end of the 90-minute discussion, supervisors agreed to retain 45 decibels as the maximum permitted noise level, and developers dropped their objections to an additional scale measuring vibrations, with the maximum level set at 60 decibels.

On another issue, supervisors kept in the proposal that wind turbines be at least 2,500 feet from a property line if an occupied structure is on the site, unless waived by the owner.

But they also agreed that if there are no occupied structures on a property, then a wind turbine can be up to 1.5 times its height from the property line. The ordinance sets the maximum wind turbine height at 270 feet.

Supervisors Chairman Frank Meloy said the township needs to look for ways to protect its residents while treating developers fairly.

Gamesa Energy USA proposes to build a wind farm in Logan Township on ground in the Chestnut Flats area, south of Route 36, and on Altoona City Authority property, north of Route 36.

The company has asked the township to expand its wind turbine zone to include the authority’s land but that matter will be addressed at another time, Meloy said.

Supervisor Joe Metzgar said his research indicates that other countries have set noise standards for wind turbine operations while the United States has let that fall to local governments.

‘‘My concern is noise,’’ Metzgar said. ‘‘I have a major problem putting anything in a neighborhood that creates noise.’’

Project Developer Tim Vought of Gamesa said noise measurements are complex. Measuring noise before a wind turbine is built and after a wind turbine is built doesn’t necessarily identify how much noise is coming from the wind turbine because the wind conditions may not be the same, he said.

Supervisor Jim Patterson asked about distinguishing the difference between daytime and nighttime noise, but supervisor Ed Frontino recommended the township keep its ordinance simple.

“There’s going to be fluctuations,” Frontino said. “It’s not like turning the lights down.”

Solicitor Larry Clapper advocated that the township retain a proposal requiring the developer or wind farm owner pay for a noise study, by an independent consultant, at the request of the township. The request would be made if the township receives complaints and believes the farm is not in compliance.

Clapper said the township would be in position to convince a court why it included that language in its ordinance.

By Kay Stephens

Altoona Mirror

13 June 2008