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Aurora adopts wind power code

The Town of Aurora now has a new code regulating wind turbines built for residential use. After a final public hearing Monday night that drew no comments from citizens, the Aurora Town Board voted unanimously to approve the Small Wind Energy Conversion System code.

The law sets standards for the creation of smaller wind turbines “intended to primarily reduce onsite consumption of utility power.” It does not deal with larger structures operated by utilities or with wind farms, which town codes do not list as permitted uses of land.

The board had little discussion of the law at its Dec. 13 meeting, but the topic has been covered several times in the past year. The push to create a new law came after the town received a November 2009 request from Albert “Bill” Miller to install a wind tower on his Bailey Road property.

The Small Wind Energy Conversion System code calls for the Town Board and Planning Board to review site plans for future wind turbine proposals and requires safety certification of a wind turbine structure by a licensed engineer. The law also states that, “The Town Board and/or Town Planning Board may request reasonable additional information, including but not limited to, any visual and aesthetic information it deems appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Such additional information may include, among other things, a professionally engineered wind study, enhanced landscaping plans, line-of-sight drawings and/or visual simulations from neighboring viewpoints, microwave interference, etc.”

More specifically, the law requires that wind towers be set back from adjacent property lines and public roadways “to safeguard the general public and/or adjacent property from damage in the event of tower failure or falling debris,” setting a “fall-down zone” one-and-a-half times the total height of the wind tower and a minimum of 500 feet from existing structures not owned by the person building the tower. Wind towers will not be allowed in front yards. Other portions of the law regulate the amount of noise and electrical interference the turbines can cause, and state that “intermittent shadow or flutter shadow shall not be cast on any adjacent residence more than a total of ten (10) minutes a day.”

Regulations differ somewhat for wind turbines intended for farm operations in state-certified agricultural districts.

The board removed from the final law an earlier proposal that would have required a demolition bond from those building the tower. The board felt that would be appropriate in a commercial code, but was unnecessary for the residential-type uses addressed by the law.