SEA GIRT – The message was clear at the Sept. 8 Sea Girt council meeting: A wind turbine is not welcome here.
Hundreds of Sea Girt residents, many sporting red “No wind turbine” T-shirts, attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the National Guard Training Center’s [NGTC] proposed wind turbine.
NGTC officials briefed the Sea Girt Planning Board about the potential project back in December, but opposition from borough residents has just begun to heat up.
“No wind turbine” lawn signs can now be seen outside homes, T-shirts were sold on the Sea Girt boardwalk, and residents have been canvassing the borough streets to raise awareness about the potential project.
In response to the recent outpouring of opposition, the borough council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution which states that Mayor Mark Clemmensen and the council members “strongly oppose” the proposed erection of a large-scale wind turbine at the NGTC.
State officials say the wind turbine project is part of a larger initiative to make the Sea Girt NGTC and other military bases energy independent.
Last year, the training center was awarded $5 million by the United States Department of Defense and Energy Conservation Investment Program to install a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine at the NGTC.
Such a project will “result in an overall negative impact to the community and property values and tend to lessen the quality of life for residents in proximity to the turbine,” states the resolution adopted by the council last Wednesday.
Within the resolution, the governing body requests that a public meeting be scheduled with the Army Corps of Engineers, the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard, and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection so that the concerns of Sea Girt residents can be expressed.
Even though the planning board was briefed, as a courtesy, by military officials in December, the NGTC is autonomous of any regulatory requirements set by the borough of Sea Girt.
On Wednesday, Mayor Clemmensen said that although 160 of the 168 acre-training center lie within Sea Girt boundaries, the property belongs to the state and borough ordinances are not recognized there.
“The state of New Jersey owns clear title to that [NGTC] property,” said Mayor Clemmensen in an effort to correct any misinformation or rumors.
The other eight acres lie within the municipal boundaries of Manasquan, he explained.
“The governing body, here [Sea Girt], has limited powers as to what we can do … but with that in mind, council agreed to proceed with this resolution,” said Mayor Clemmensen.
The mayor also outlined, what he understood, to be the projected timeline for the wind turbine project for those in attendance at the meeting.
Currently, a $750,000 bat, bird and bug study is underway at the NGTC. The study will not be completed until Sept. 23, said Mayor Clemmensen.
According to NGTC spokesman Kryn Westhoven, the bird, bat and bug study is being conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, a year-long wind study conducted by Rowan University is just about complete.
According to Mayor Clemmensen, preliminary review of the project and the results of the two studies may not be available until November or December.
After the studies are complete, the NGTC must apply for a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP].
The public comment period, which is typically held by the DEP for all proposals, may not occur until the spring of 2011, said Mayor Clemmensen. Area residents will be allowed to submit their comments on the project to the DEP during this allotted time.
“In an effort to be good neighbors, [the state] has come before our planning board [in the past,]” said Mayor Clemmensen. He again stressed that the state has no obligation to do so, but that officials have kept Sea Girt “in the loop.”
“We hope that they will continue do this in the future,” said Mayor Clemmensen.
The mayor is the former director of the NGTC.
Assemblyman David Rible and Sen. Sean Kean [both R-11]were present at the meeting and both spoke out against the construction of the wind turbine at the NGTC location.
“To me, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Sen. Kean of the proposed location of the wind turbine.
He told the audience he had requested a briefing about the project from Maj. Gen. Glenn Reith, of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and was told that this would not happen until after the bird, bat and bug study had been compiled.
Assemblyman Rible noted that the timeline for the proposed project is long and that there are obstacles. “We’ll work to make these obstacles higher,” he said.
“We have a lot of buttons to press to make sure the right thing happens in the end,” said Sen. Kean.
About a dozen Sea Girt residents commented on the issue at the meeting. All spoke out against the erection of a wind turbine at the NGTC, citing health, environmental and economic concerns [see related story].
The Manasquan Council also passed a resolution this week stating it was against the wind turbine.