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Clayton’s wind law not strict enough, Jefferson County Planning Board says

TOWN OF CLAYTON: Sound-level rules, setbacks discussed.

Taking a position championed by a prominent wind farm development critic, the Jefferson County Planning Board urged the town of Clayton to include stricter regulations on sound levels in the town’s proposed amendment for wind development.

In the current law, sound cannot exceed 50 decibels at non-participating residences and public buildings, which the proposed amendment does not change. An amendment forwarded in 2010 that failed to pass the Town Council capped sound at 5 decibels above ambient noise in either the audible or inaudible range at non-participating residents’ property lines, a strict relative standard that mirrors state Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines for projects in general.

“They should follow the guidelines used by the state right now,” board member Clifford J. Schneider said. “The state of New York and DEC have guidelines for that and most communities should be following those guidelines.”

Other members agreed, and though the board voted to say the amendment is of local concern, the board will send comments to the town to beef up the sound regulations and clarify other areas.

County senior planner Andrew R. Nevin told the seven present members of the board that the proposed amendment is a weaker version of the amendment sent in 2010. The amendment would change the current land-use law, which is not part of the town’s zoning ordinances.

The current law establishes setbacks of 500 feet from property lines and public highways and 1,250 feet from nonparticipating residences and public buildings.

The proposed amendment would require 1,250-foot setbacks from the property lines of nonparticipants, leaving participating property owners with a 500-foot setback from their boundaries.

The wind committee made recommendations for additional setbacks of 2.5 times the turbine’s height from participating residences, 4,500 feet from the Chaumont River downstream of Depauville, 3.5 times the turbine’s height from non-participating property lines and the turbine’s height plus 10 percent away from utilities.

The proposed amendment, which was suggested by town Supervisor Justin A. Taylor, includes the call for a baseline assessment of parcels in the town, except waterfront parcels. For five years after a project is built, the assessor would conduct townwide assessments, except waterfront parcels.

If the properties in the town’s wind overlay district had greater devaluation than the town as a whole, the developer would pay the difference to a town fund to reimburse property owners in the district if they sell their homes in that five-year period.

If any money is left over after five years, the town would hold it in a renewable-energy fund for its own use.

“It appears to go beyond a typical land-use control law,” Mr. Nevin said. “If they believe development will affect a neighborhood, typically, it is not allowed there. So the town should consider whether facilities, under such scrutiny, are really appropriate for this area of the town.”

The amendment would require that 75 percent of the structural components be manufactured in the United States and 75 percent of the construction work force be residents of Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis or Oswego counties. If the developer fails to comply, it would put $1,000 into the town renewable energy fund for every percentage point below those thresholds.

“It seems to me they’re setting up two classes of citizenship,” said member David W. Prosser. “And are they really allowed to regulate interstate commerce with the American component requirements?”

The county Planning Board, for a second time, encouraged the town to increase setbacks from the Perch River Wildlife Management Area and Chaumont Barrens. And it suggested that waivers on setback requirements should be granted not by the town’s Planning Board, but by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Clayton’s Town Council likely will vote on the amendment at its meeting at 5 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Clayton Opera House, 405 Riverside Drive.