MORRISTOWN – Town officials are returning to original setback distances and an altered version of a noise standard first proposed in 2009 for its wind energy facilities law.
Still struggling to decide on those standards, a diminished group of town officials met Tuesday with Mark W. Tayrien, planning services director for Labella Associates P.C., a Rochester-based architectural and engineering firm.
The town hired Mr. Tayrien for $3,500 to help write the wind law.
The setbacks being considered are 1 1/2 times the total height of a turbine, including the length of its rotating blade measured from the center of the turbine base, to site boundary property lines, the nearest public road, the edge of the wind overlay district, and from any non-turbine structure or above-ground utility.
For example, Iberdrola Renewables’ proposed 476-foot-tall Gamesa wind turbines for the Stone Church Wind Farm could sit 714 feet from Route 37.
Officials are also considering a setback of 1,200 feet from the nearest off-site residence at the time a wind company submits an application to build.
The noise standard being considered is 45 decibels at the property line, excluding normal noises like cars passing or dogs barking.
To put 45 decibels into perspective, decibel level comparison charts found online describe a rustling of leaves as 10 decibels, a television in the background as 20 decibels, a quiet library as 40, inside an average home at 50, and conversational speech at one meter as 60 decibels.
Also being considered is the ambient, or existing, noise level plus 6 dBA. Sound studies would have to be conducted to determine the ambient sound level in Morristown, according to Mr. Tayrien.
“A three decibel change (in ambient noise) would be noticed by some people, but probably not by others,” he said, adding that a six-decibel change would be “noticeable for everyone.” He said a 10-decibel change is “an annoyance.”
Mr. Tayrien said he knew of muncipalities that had set noise and setback standards that were so restrictive that they effectively killed the prospect of wind development.
Officials have also proposed making a distinction in the law between small and large wind energy conversion systems. Board members said smaller wind turbines, under a total of 110 feet from base to blade tip, which produce electricity for personal use should not be as restricted as commercial turbines.
Town officials have not discussed the wind issue since November. Only three members of the public attended Tuesday’s meeting – Mike Weller, a representative of Iberdrola Renewables Inc., Michele W. McQueer, a pro-wind member of the Hammond wind committee, and Ronald W. Bertram, Hammond’s town supervisor.
Town board members Mark C. Blanchard and Gary B. Turner were not present.
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