The application for the Walmart wind turbines was deemed incomplete Monday by the zoning Board of Adjustment after the company failed to supply a survey of the adjacent properties.
The applicant, OmniWind Energy Systems, LLC plans to replace 14 existing lighting poles in the Walmart parking lot and install windmills that would supply electric energy to the store.
“The purpose of the small wind turbines is to provide electricity to Walmart. It has the ability to go into the grid. But Walmart, even at resting mode, meaning in the middle of the night, is using more energy than these things can put out. So it’s estimated that there’s really nothing that will be going into the grid,” said Warren Stiwell, OmniWind’s attorney.
According to the application, the company would replace light poles along the front of the property with stronger poles, reinstall the light fixtures at the current height, and install small turbines.
The applicant is seeking to get variance approval from the zoning board to extend the lighting poles to about 54 feet, as code currently allows poles to rise to only 35 feet.
Each pole would have multi-bladed fans encased with a metal frame resting on a rotatable device that allows them to turn to face the wind. The turbine would be 8 feet in diameter with 4-foot blades.
“I can’t emphasize enough this is a small wind turbine. It’s not an industrial wind turbine. It’s got caps on the ends of the blades so that there is no vortex coming off of the blades. And they’re virtually silent,” Stiwell said.
The applicant was asked to provide a survey of the adjacent properties at the next zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, when further testimony will be given.
“This is 18.7 acres of property. It’s a huge piece of property. In the scope of what we’re proposing, that’s a huge amount of information that is not relevant to what we’re doing on this commercial property,” Stiwell said.
“But it’s not going to be just lights anymore. It’s going to be something that is new and upcoming. We have to make sure we cross all our t’s and dot all our i’s…I would say it’s incomplete without all that information,” said zoning board member Colleen Bradley.
Stiwell also argued that according to the Sica balancing tests, which analyzes the potential public benefits and possible detrimental effects, a wind generating facility is inherently a beneficial use. If the zoning board disagrees, OmniWind would have to make a case for the positive benefits of such turbines.
According to the applicant, the existing wiring will be used so trenching is not necessary. The only potential detriment the applicant noted was the visual impact of installing windmills.
But a law passed by the State Senate and General Assembly in November 2009 changed the definition of “inherently beneficial use” to include wind structures.
“New Jersey amended the Municipal Land Use Law, provided that alternative energy sources including wind, which is what this is, are inherently beneficial uses,” Stiwell said.
This might come into play when OmniWind faces the zoning board once again. The board will seek input from their planner to determine how this law applies to OmniWind and Walmart, said zoning board member Tim McDonald.
If the wind turbines are considered an inherently beneficial use under the amended law, the applicant will have a much easier time getting approval from the zoning board.
McDonald argued that the applicant needs to meet a different set of proofs under municipal ordinances that regulate the installation and operation of such systems and the state.
Wind systems are not a permitted use in Lacey, which is why the applicant is appearing in front of the board as a use variance, Zoning Officer Loretta Rule said.
Under a second law, municipalities are kept from “unreasonably” limiting small wind energy system installations.
Several residents from Jacqueline Court, which is located just behind Walmart, came out to show their concerns.
“Our first pass at it is we’re not in favor of it. They’re invited to make a presentation but I don’t know if that’s going to change our minds,” Charles DeFiglio said. “Walmart already has impacted property value and the ability to sell houses. We don’t have enough information but our first pass is there is no one on the street who wants it, and we have several reservations.”
“And the fact that he didn’t even want to show the board where people live in proximity to it, that raises a lot of questions,” DeFiglio’s wife Judith said.
The application will be carried to the Sept. 7 zoning board meeting at 7 p.m.
For copies of the laws see the .pdf’s attached to this article.
For more information on the OmniWind turbines, read “Residents Voice Concerns Over Walmart Windmills.”
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