UNION BEACH – The Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority’s project to erect an energy-producing wind turbine, already a three-year effort, has suffered another setback.
By an 8-0 vote, the Planning Board rejected the authority’s application to redraw its property lines to include a roughly half-acre tract purchased from Jersey Central Power & Light Co., land the agency acquired for the wind turbine.
The board also said the authority needs to reapply for a use variance in order for the board to consider whether the agency may add the plot to its property earmarked for the turbine.
An estimated 60 residents from Union Beach, Hazlet and surrounding Bayshore municipalities showed up Wednesday, many carrying signs that read “No Wind Turbine in Union Beach.” Because the application deemed deficient and was rejected, no public comments were taken during the meeting.
The authority purchased the tract from JCP&L in October to insure that the three rotating blades of the proposed $7.7 million, 1.5 megawatt wind turbine will always only rotate over authority property, the agency’s officials said.
The authority wants to use the half-acre, semi-circular lot to provide more room for the planned turbine’s 118-foot-long blades, as well as to ensure clearance for a 219.5-acre tract known as Conaskonk Point, a property that consists of environmentally sensitive lands, according to the site plan application prepared by T&M Associates of Middletown.
The authority wants to consolidate the land for the turbine into one lot.
Authority Executive Director Robert C. Fischer testified that the turbine site is now within the agency’s property, but that the blades, upon certain declamations of the wind, would extend past its property line.
The proposed 380-foot-tall turbine would be in the northern corner of the wastewater treatment plant’s 24-acre property and would be 1,080 feet from a residential neighborhood.
Construction of a 240-foot base, on which the turbine will be set, is on schedule to be completed by January, Fischer said.
Proposed by the authority in 2009 and approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection last June, the turbine will help reduce Bayshore customers’ sewerage bills over the next three years, Fischer has said.
However, turbine opponents contend that it will endanger Conaskonk Point, a wetlands area that is a habitat for shorebirds during the spring migration.
“If they get this land, it will enable them to erect the turbine and possibly set a precedent allowing for future industrial development of this wetland area,” sail Bill Heller, a Union Beach resident and creator of the website www.noturbine.com.
Fischer said in November: “The impact to the wetlands at Conaskonk Point has been assessed not by BRSA, but by the DEP that approved the project. We intentionally located the turbine out of the wetlands boundary. We’ve studied and continue to study the avian and bat populations to get an assessment of their population, species, habitation and migration.”
The planning board had adjourned its consideration of the authority’s application at its Nov. 8 meeting, saying it wanted to review pending state legislation in the state Senate that would require a 2,000-foot setback for onshore industrial wind turbines from homes and schools.
Authority attorney Lewis E. Granada said the bills are not likely to be acted upon in 2010.
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