MORRISTOWN – When the Morristown Wind Committee presented the town board with its proposed wind energy facilities law on May 11, the document lacked noise standards and setback distances.
After members of the committee told the board they felt unqualified to recommend specific limits on noise and setbacks, the wind ordinance was passed along to LaBella Associates, P.C. – a consulting firm hired by the town to assist with the law’s development.
Nearly six months later, LaBella has returned the draft law to Morristown with suggestions for improvement – none of which establish noise standards or setback distances.
“Before suggestions for the completion of this section can be offered, further discussion with the committee or with the board will be necessary to understand the town’s intent,” wrote Mark W. Tayrien, AICP, the director of LaBella’s planning division.
“Noise has been correctly identified as one of the most problematic, and difficult to predict, issues raised by Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) … The committee has perceptively identified noise standards and setbacks as one of the most problematic issues confronted in the development of a proposed law regulating utility scale wind projects…
“The definition of these setbacks and standards is frequently a trade-off which must take into account the community’s sensitivity to the risk for unacceptable noise as well as the prospect of precluding utility scale development through definition of ‘excessive’ setbacks,” he wrote.
“Simply put, given the residential density typically found in upstate N.Y., there is no feasible way to simply compute an appropriate setback or constraint that would be acceptable in all instances. What could be seen as too strict in one community could just as easily be viewed as too lenient in another.
“LaBella is unaware of any simple computation or technical model available to define setbacks and noise thresholds. However, we would be happy to review this issue further with the town board and/or the committee in an effort to help understand the town’s perspective and then define a setback regime that could be found appropriate in this instance,” Mr. Tayrien said.
Town Supervisor Frank L. Putman said Friday that despite not being in a rush, the town board has some serious decisions to make.
“They’re (LaBella) in effect saying that these are areas that are going to be specific to our community and that they want us to put something in the law for them to review,” Mr. Putman said. “We, in our brain, thought that LaBella would make suggestions for the establishment of these two factors (noise and setbacks).
“This leaves us with that to decide,” he added.
Mr. Putman said he believes “looking at similar laws that are working in other areas” is the direction that Morristown needs to go.
“We need to find out what is in place and working,” he said.
According to the supervisor, the town board agreed to pay LaBella no more than $3,500 for their services. Town Clerk David J. Murray said the town had not yet received a voucher for payment.
Mr. Putman said LaBella will also assist the town board at any upcoming public hearings in regards to the wind law.
“Part of their value will be assisting us with any questions the public may pose,” he said.
No meetings or hearings have been scheduled to continue work on the wind law, according to Mr. Murray.
The Morristown Town Board meets next on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. in the town offices.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding