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Kean introduces legislation to restrict siting of wind turbines near homes

State Sen. Sean T. Kean, R-Monmouth, has introduced legislation that would prohibit siting large-scale wind turbines within 2,000 feet of homes.

Introduced Monday, S2374 comes in response to an outcry from residents of Sea Girt and Manasquan over plans by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to build a 325-foot turbine at the National Guard Training Center, which is on state-owned land situated between the two boroughs.

Kean said the 2,000-foot designation was based on existing wind regulations in other parts of the country and Europe, and was also an estimate of the distance he thought was needed to protect people living near a large turbine from noise and flicker effect.

“It’s not just about the Sea Girt site,” Kean said. “We’re trying to come up with a smart statewide plan.”

The senator said that while he voted for legislation to offer millions in tax breaks to encourage building wind farms off the Jersey Shore, “I don’t think we should be putting these (turbines) right in the middle of residential developments. From a cost-benefit analysis, we don’t want to disrupt these nice residential areas for something that’s really a drop in the bucket.”

But Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said misconceptions have spread regarding the DMAVA’s planned turbine and other wind projects in the state.

The Sierra Club, he said, believes “the best place for most wind is 15 miles off the coast, where there’s fewer species and better wind. However, with these onshore projects, I think there’s been a lot of hysteria that’s been stirred up by people, and some of it is based on fear and some of it is based on misinformation.”

Tittel said he can understand aesthetic objections to turbines, but concerns about health effects are unfounded.

“I find it wrongheaded when a Legislature drops a bill that goes against wind when the issue hasn’t been looked at beyond the fear stage,” he said.

The training center’s land is less than 2,000 feet across at its widest point. The DMAVA has not given specifics on the possible placement of its planned turbine, but a spokesman said it would most likely be sited in the southeast corner of the center, which would have put it within 1,000 feet of Manasquan homes.

Kean said he has had a positive response from colleagues in the Legislature. Other parts of the state are considering land-sited turbines, too, he said, prompting concerns.

“This is an issue we are going to have to deal with,” he said.