Wind facilities law review now complete
Credit: By Matt McAllister, The Journal, www.ogd.com 23 February 2011 ~~
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HAMMOND – With two final meetings last week, the Hammond wind committee has finished its section by section review of the current law – now the town board has until July to decide how the committee’s recommendations will affect the wind law.
Committee members Ronald R. Papke and Allan P. Newell have volunteered to write an “overview report”, which will contain a number of conclusions that the committee has come to. This report, along with several recommendations and supporting documentation, is expected to be presented to Town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram at the town board’s special wind recommendation review meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. in the town offices.
Specific recommendations include:
* Real Property Value Guarantee – Drafted by Richard K. Champney, real estate attorney, this recommendation was the most controversial and supported by many members of the public as well as Mr. Bertram. According to Mr. Champany, his proposal calls for assurances from a wind company that if a property owner cannot get the appraised value of his/her home at sale because of the presence of wind turbines, then the wind company would be required to make up the difference. “This agreement must be entered into within 90 days of the conclusion of the permitting process, and is good only for those properties falling within a two-mile range of a windmill,” he said. Additionally, according to Mr. Champany, the proposal calls for a one-time only “buyout clause,” which would give a property owner who was completely opposed to living near a turbine an opportunity to have the wind company buy their property outright.
* Setbacks – One and a half miles from Rte. 12 for 500-foot-tall wind turbines and one mile from Rte. 12 for turbines of 375 feet or shorter (to mitigate bird migration and bat issues, as well as viewshed). 3,000 feet around village limits. 3,000 feet from the center of all public roads and non-participants property lines.1,000 feet from all state and federal wetlands.
* Noise standards – Dr. Paul D. Schomer’s suggested sound limits for its recommendation to the town board. The backbone of Dr. Schomer’s suggested noise standards includes three separate limits for different times of the day and night. According to the recommendation documents provided by the committee, these limits include: 45 decibels (dB) in the daytime from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 40 dB in the evening from 7 to 10 p.m.; and 35 dB during nighttime hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
* Complaint resolution plan – Touched upon complaints such as shadow flicker, setback requirements, noise and sleep interference, electromagnetic problems and stray voltage, and aquafier/water disturbances.
A fee schedule and time frame for notification and mitigation was included. The committee agreed that complaints should be submitted in writing and notarized in order to prevent bogus complaints.
* Project Oversight Control Board – To oversee the project from start to finish and to approve variances. Such a board, Mr. Papke suggested, would consist of five members, appointed by the town board, and staggered initially so that a new member would be appointed each year.
Terms, he said, would be five years, and board members would all be non-participants, meaning they could not have a signed wind lease or Good Neighbor agreement with any wind company, and could not be an elected official.
* Decommissioning plan – Any wind turbine non-functional or inoperative for a continuous period of one year will be removed on the developer’s dime; A decommissioning plan submitted by the developer will include the estimated decommissioning cost, how that estimate was determined, the method of ensuring available funds for decommissioning purposes, and the method that will be used to keep these costs current; A decommissioning fund of 125 percent of the full cost of decommissioning (including salvage value) and restoration will be kept in the form of cash on deposit with the town or cash held in escrow in a New York-licensed financial institution.
Created in early 2010 to take a “hard look” investigation of industrial wind development, the committee was charged by Mr. Bertram to use factual information based on science and to utilize an unbiased approach. The group met more than 30 times over about a ten-month period and collected reams of documentation on a multitude of issues.
Even so, committee member Dr. Stephen D. Sarfaty, at the last couple of meetings, remained skeptical of some aspects of the data, specifically, in the areas of bird and bat mortality and with wind development’s affect on property values.
He reiterated at the last meeting that he supports either conservative recommendations or a 3 to 5 year moratorium to continue gathering data.
Committee member Michele W. McQueer voted against every recommendation the committee made, and has provided the town board with a minority report, outlining her opinions on the issues.
The town board will review committee recommendations Monday at 7 p.m. in the town offices, with an additional meeting for the same purpose tentatively scheduled for March 28, same time and place. The next regular meeting for the town board will occur on March 14, also at 7 p.m. in the town offices.
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