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Holmdel puts off decision on turbine

HOLMDEL – The Township Committee mulled a decision on Feb. 3 to join several other Bayshore towns in opposing a 380-foot-tall industrial wind turbine proposed for neighboring Union Beach.

The committee voted 4-1 to table and reconsider a resolution that disagrees with the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority’s (BRSA) decision to move forward with a resident-opposed onshore wind-to-energy project, which would be sited 1,080 feet from the nearest homes upon completion.

Mayor Patrick Impreveduto said he spoke with Union Beach Mayor Paul J. Smith and local officials from surrounding communities about the health and wildlife impact the turbine could have on the 1.9- square-mile borough, but decided all members of the Township Committee should hear from BRSA officials before taking action on a resolution. Hazlet, Keyport and Union Beach and the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders have passed similar resolutions against the construction of the turbine, based on concerns about noise, siting, property values, and the health and welfare of residents.

“I have a good understanding of your plight, believe me I do, but now I need to hear the other side,” Impreveduto said in response to a comment from a Union Beach resident.

In attendance at the meeting was Holmdel resident and BRSA Chairman John Colligas, who was appointed by the governing body to represent the township on the sewerage authority’s commission, a six-member board that provides oversight of the facility’s operations and management.

Colligas urged the committee to reassess the resolution until members of the governing body have discussed the plan with the BRSA.

“We feel as an authority that we have been working on this for two and a half years,” Colligas said. “We’ve spent a lot of money doing many, many tests in many areas to make sure what we are doing is OK for what we want to do.”

Colligas offered to present information about the project to the committee members after executive session. The Township Committee subsequently agreed to hold a presentation with public comment about the turbine issue at a future meeting.

“We feel that this might be helpful for you before you do anything further on this resolution,” he said.

After the BRSA received a permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) in May 2010, Colligas said the BRSA was required to do preconstruction studies about bird and bat activity before work began. The studies were contracted to wind power and bird consultants Curry & Kerlinger, Cape May.

In response to noise concerns, Colligas said the turbine would be one decibel higher than what the sewerage authority already generates, which is approximately 38 decibels in the daytime.

“We are not only doing this to become more efficient, but we want to make sure that whatever we do, it does not affect, as much as possible if we can, the health [of people],” Colligas said.

Impreveduto asked Colligas why local municipalities and residents have opposed the turbine, and Colligas said the concerns are based on misinformation.

“This is mostly a matter of emotions … emotions versus a lack of knowledge,” Colligas said. “I don’t know what we could do about the emotions, but we could satisfy the need for knowledge.”

Committeeman Larry Fink, who cast the lone “no” vote to table the resolution, spoke in favor of holding a public dialogue where both sides would have the opportunity to discuss the positives and negatives of alternative energy such as wind turbines.

“While certainly it is important to hear perspectives from all sides, I think it is important to have some discussion,” Fink said. “The general public is served well by public discussion of items.”

Committeeman Rocco Pascucci agreed and said he wanted to hear both arguments before taking action on a resolution.

“I felt I need to see this gentleman’s [Colligas] data and then we can discuss it,” Pascucci said. “I don’t want to discuss it halfheartedly. I have to see his data.”

During the public comment session of the meeting, Union Beach resident Bart Sutton said he was disappointed that the township did not pass the resolution, but thanked the governing body for their time and consideration.

“As a good government always does, it does listen to its constituents, which you have done,” Sutton said.

The BRSA serves the communities of Hazlet, Union Beach, Matawan, Aberdeen, Keyport, Keansburg, Holmdel and Marlboro.