HAMMOND – While no formal action was taken at the Hammond Town Board’s initial meeting to review the wind advisory committee’s wind law suggestions, one question weighing on the minds of some members of the public was answered Monday night.
Town Councilman James E. Langtry has decided it is not against his personal ethics to continue participating in wind discussions, despite a signed wind lease between Iberdrola Renewables Inc. and his sister, Susan Dunham.
At the opening of the meeting, after Town Clerk Darlene V. Amyot read the public notice advertising the special board meeting, Mr. Langtry addressed the board with a question.
“Am I allowed to sit in on this meeting?” he asked.
Town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram told Mr. Langtry it was up to him.
“I’m not making you leave,” the supervisor said. “I’m not the enforcer of the code of ethics. Does that answer your question?” he countered, passing the floor back to Mr. Langtry.
The councilman repeated the same question again, adding, “I am a part of this board.” He pointed out that James Pitcher, another town councilman with a wind lease himself, who had recused himself but was sitting amongst the public, was also part of the town council.
“I believe he has recused himself from all issues relating to wind,” Mr. Bertram said.
The meeting progressed from there, with Mr. Langtry sitting up front with the board and Mr. Pitcher sitting in the public.
Mr. Bertram began by reading a letter from Rudolph A. Schneider, wind committee chairman, which outlined the five recommendations currently on the table from the wind committee. He also pointed out that Michele W. McQueer, also of the wind committee, had written a minor report in addition to the wind committee’s group recommendations.
The committee then walked through the five recommendations individually, with Mr. Bertram saying that the board was not prepared to make any immediate decisions.
These recommendations include:
* Noise standards – Ronald R. Papke presented the backbone of the committee’s noise recommendations, which he said had been developed with assistance from Dr. Paul C. Schomer, an acoustical engineer with credentials he described as being “very creditable.” Dr. Schomer has a PhD in electrical engineering/acoustics from the University of Illinois, as well as being a board certified member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering.
Dr. Schomer’s suggested noise standards include three separate noise limits for different times of the day and night: 45 decibels in the daytime from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 40 decibels in the evening from 7 to 10 p.m., and 35 decibels during nighttime hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
* Real Property Value Guarantee (RPVG) – Developed by Richard K. Champney, wind committee member and real estate attorney, the RPVG would require the wind developer to make up any difference in sale price to a residence that had been negatively impacted by its proximity to a wind farm. The agreement also calls for a one-time-only opportunity for a property owner to have the wind developer “buy out” the property if that resident didn’t want to be adjacent to a wind farm at all.
Mrs. McQueer, seated with the public, said there was no evidence of property value loss at other wind farm locations.
“I have comparables, both before and after construction,” she said, adding, “Plus the anonymous letter I got. Which the attorney general has now.”
* Project management – A four-page document written by Frederick A. Proven, wind committee member, was read by Mr. Bertram, outlining the committee’s suggestions for management during the construction and operation phases of a project, as well as several additional permitting requirements.
The suggestion advises the town board to seek the services of an independent engineering firm during the construction phase, paid for by the developer, to be retained on-site at all times during construction. A full-time, on-site monitor is also recommended during the operation phase, also at the developer’s expense.
* Lighting – To mitigate viewscape issues and bird and bat mortality rates, the committee recommended an OCAS (Obstacle Collision Avoidance System) lighting arrangement.
As explained by Mr. Papke and Mr. Schneider, such a system would allow for the red blinking lights that can be seen at night to be on only when they are required, such as when radar picks up an airplane in the surrounding area.
Jenny Burke, a spokeswoman for Iberdrola, said an OCAS has never been implemented by her company, but that she would check with Iberdrola officials. She also said that about 24 percent of turbines at Maple Ridge Wind Farm are lit up at night, and about 36 percent at Roaring Brooke Wind Farm in Herkimer County.
“That’s a pretty indicative range, between 25 and 35 percent,” she said of the number of turbines whose lights are commonly visible at night.
Mrs. McQueer said the committee had no scientific documentation on the OCAS.
“All we have is a flyer from the manufacturer,” she said.
* Setbacks – Allan P. Newell, committee member, laid out four maps developed by the St. Lawrence County Planning Office, featuring the wind overlay district.
The first showed the entire district, with no setbacks attached. The second map displayed a one-and-a-half mile setback from both the St. Lawrence River and Black Lake. Next, a map depicting 3,000-foot setbacks from all public roads, and finally, a map with 1,000-foot setbacks from both state and federal wetlands.
By the time the final map was displayed, the area for possible turbine construction had been narrowed down to five or six tiny slivers within the wind overlay district, drawing sarcastic comments and accusations from pro-wind members of the public.
Very little conversation ensued and the meeting was adjourned with no action being taken.
Two more special meetings have been scheduled for the town board to continue reviewing the wind committee’s suggestions, on Feb. 28 and March 28 at 7 p.m. in the town hall.
The wind committee has also scheduled one final meeting, to be held Monday at 7 p.m. at the village community center.
The next regularly scheduled meeting for the Hammond Town Board is Feb. 14, also at 7 p.m. in the town hall.