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County planning board approves Hammond wind law

CANTON – Despite staff recommendations that would have doubled the potential development area for Wind Energy Convergence Systems in the town of Hammond’s proposed wind facilities law, the county planning board approved recommendations with even more restrictions.

St. Lawrence County Planning Board approved with modifications Hammond’s proposed wind facilities law with a 11-2 vote Monday night. Board members Kim Bisonette and Tom Jenison voted against the law citing that it was too restrictive for potential developers.

While several minor modifications were recommended by the County Planners the only issue that seemed to draw problems from the 20 or so Hammond residents surrounded setbacks near federal wetlands.

In Hammond’s proposed law, setbacks of two times the total height of the proposed WECS was required from federal and state designated wetlands.

County Planner Jason Photenhauer said state regulations require a setback of only 100 feet and there is no setback regulation for federal wetlands.

“Many federal wetlands are less than one acre,” he said. “The problem in St. Lawrence County is, to be frank, you can’t throw a stick without hitting a wetland.”

Mr. Photenhauer said the planning staff felt the setback was excessive and recommended it be changed to 100, feet. He suggested keeping the setback on state wetlands because the properties are minimum of 12 acres. Mr. Photenhauer said reducing the federal wetland setback would increase the area for wind development of large WECS from 1.3 square miles to 2.7 square miles of the total 30.4 square mile area of of Hammond’s wind overlay district.

The recommendation raised concerns from a few Hammond residents who complained it may have an impact on wildlife.

County Planning board member William Palmer also questioned the recommendation.

“I just don’t see why you would want to put a smaller set back near wetlands,” he said,

Another recommendation by the county planning board included a setback of 1.5 times the height of the WECS near adjacent town lines, further reducing the 1.3 acres of land which could potential house a large WECS.

A motion was made to pass the law with all staff recommendations, but was modified to exclude the additional setback on the federal wetlands.

The law will now be returned to the Hammond Town Board for final approval. The board may pass the county approved law as is with a simple majority, but would need a super majority vote to further modify it.