NEW HARTFORD – In a town where commercial development has been the talk of the town in recent years, officials here plan to regulate a more rural commercial endeavor: wind turbines.
Town board member Donald Backman said he recognizes the pressure officials in neighboring municipalities face from residents when commercial wind farm developers submit proposals. That pressure intensifies when the town does not have zoning regulations on its books for such development.
“I’m looking at what is happening in Litchfield and Fairfield,” he said referring to two communities where wind turbines are being built or proposed. “This issue has clearly caused a very large public riff.”
Backman said he is in favor of constructing turbines in rural areas of the town, mainly in the southwest and southeast corners, as long as that development is regulated.
“Now is the time to get these issues aired, not while we’re under pressure and there’s a proposal on the table,” he said. “This is not about prohibiting them. It’s about regulating them to be as safe as possible.”
At Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, Backman was selected to look further into the matter.
New Hartford’s regulations will address both residential turbines and larger commercials turbine farms.
‘Siting is everything’
For Otsego 2000, an environmental watchdog group based in Cooperstown, regulating where turbines can be constructed is imperative.
“We’re not opposed to all wind projects – that would be inconsistent with our goals,” Otsego 2000 president Nicole Dillingham said. “We are opposed to poorly sited projects that have a negative impact on historic sites in the community. Siting is everything with these projects.”
Dillingham said local municipalities should consider how far turbines are set back from roads and neighboring properties, especially ones in residential areas.
“The number of turbines should also be considered,” she said. “Once it gets past eight to 12, then there’s going to start to be a visual impact on the community.”
Noise created by the turbines and their proximity to historic sites should also be regulated, she said.
“Towns should prepare for this and they should take some steps to pass ordinances that address setbacks, noise and so forth,” she said. “A responsible wind turbine developer will propose something that works for the community, and they’ll try to working within regulations.”
Process just beginning
For Backman, zoning ordinances will not be rushed, and they will involve public input.
“We’re not going to rush to judgment on this,” he said. “The process will take as long as it needs so that an orderly, well thought-out plan can be enacted. I would hope that by mid-2011 that this issue could be behind us.”
Backman said he would review similar ordinances drafted by area communities and bring them to the board to review.
Town Board member David Reynolds said there are areas of the town where turbines could be constructed.
“We want to avoid problems some of the other communities are having so I think it’s prudent we explore this,” he said.
Reynolds added: “I think its way too premature to talk about outlawing them. There are certainly areas of the town where they lend to development.”
Board member Christine Krupa agreed turbines should be allowed in the town, as long as they’re properly regulated.
“The last thing we want is to fly by the seat of our pants because someone has submitted a proposal,” she said. “I don’t think turbines should be outlawed, but they need to be regulated based on land area and size.”
‘Time to start’
Several board members and Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski said they have not received any proposals from energy companies.
“I understand there may be a day when I walk out my door and there’s a turbine in my view,” said Backman, who represents Ward 1, the southern most ward in the town.
Tyksinski agreed the board does not plan to outlaw turbines.
“This is the time to start looking at this before we’re under the gun and we have to act on it,” he said.
Town Board member Rich Woodland Jr. could not be reached Thursday.
State Public Service Commission Spokesman James Denn said projects 80 megawatts or larger are reviewed by the PSC, while smaller projects are the responsibility of the local municipality. The requirements included in turbine ordinances are set by the local municipality on a case by case basis, he said.
“In a nutshell, we consider anything that could potentially impact the safe and reliable operation of the proposed facility: engineering, electric inter-connection, energy deliverability, environmental (streams and wetlands, endangered species, etc.) archeological, visual, historic, agricultural impacts, noise, set backs, financial wherewithal, etc.,” Denn wrote in an e-mailed response to inquiries.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding