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Decision to be made on Walmart wind turbines in November  

Credit:  By Elaine Piniat, Lacey Patch, patch.com 4 October 2011 ~~

The application proposing to install wind turbines in the parking lot of the Lanoka Harbor Walmart was once again tabled until next month’s zoning board meeting.

Although the applicant OmniWind Energy Systems completed their testimony, the zoning board delayed their decision pending additional questions.

“We’re going to dot all our i’s and cross all our t’s with this one,” board Chairman Tim McDonald said.

OmniWind Energy Systems is proposing to install 10 wind turbines with new poles and foundations at the existing site of lighting poles at Walmart. The existing light fixtures would be reinstalled at the same height.

The applicant is seeking to get a use variance since wind systems are not a permitted use in Lacey and a bulk variance approval from the zoning board to extend the lighting poles to 54 feet, as code currently allows poles to rise to only 35 feet.

Each turbine will put out over 4,000 kWh per year, which will make up less than 1 percent of Walmart’s energy, Douglas said. Power will not be put back into the grid, said Carl Douglas, president and co-Founder of OmniWind.

“It seems as though it’s not cost effective or practical given the testimony that has just come up about the poles. I think this is nothing but a public relations ploy by Walmart to look green and entice more people to come shop in their stores,” Forked River resident Regina Discenza said.

The applicant, who originally proposed 14 wind turbines, removed one closest to Haines Avenue and three on the northern end of Walmart’s lot because the standards did not meet a provision requiring the turbine to be setback from the property line 150 percent of the height of the poles.

The four turbines were removed because of their proximity to Jacqueline Court, which is located right behind Walmart, and because several board members showed concern last month that this project would start a precedence for other applications up and down Route 9, said Warren Stiwell, OmniWind’s attorney said.

“We decided it would be appropriate to eliminate the setback variances that would have been required for those three in terms of them setting a negative precedence,” he said.

Last week, the applicant’s Professional Planner Michael Boland released a helium balloon at the site where the turbines would be installed. The top of the balloon, which had a 3-feet diameter, reached 54 feet.

Boland took photos at ground level from various spots along Jacqueline Court and property adjacent to the neighborhood. The balloon was visible above the tree line from the southern end of Jacqueline Court, Boland said.

“They should really do [the balloon study] in December because there are six months when there are no leaves on the trees and that would be a much more real test of the impact of having those windmills there,” Bud DiFiglio, a resident of Jacqueline Court said.

Many residents on Jacqueline Court voiced their apprehension towards wind turbines being installed in the Walmart parking lot citing possible noise, aesthetics, and a potential decrease in property value.

June Rossolillo’s home has been on the market off and on and she has had prospective buyers walk away simply because of Walmart’s proximity, she said.

“I’m worried. I’m very, very concerned…I’m afraid our property values are going to go down even more. I would hate to see anything else impair property values,” she said.

DiFiglio pointed out a report released by CBS Detroit on Oct. 1, 2011, which found that property sold 20 to 40 percent less than comparable properties that did not have turbines on adjacent proximity, he said. The report also noted that residents in the area of wind turbines were eligible for a 50 percent decrease in their tax base.

“Now I can tell you, if this goes ahead, everyone here will be down to get a 50 percent reduction in our taxes,” DiFiglio said.

“Let’s extrapolate. Let’s say [wind turbines] go to ShopRite and then it goes to Home Depot, and then it comes over here and you have 500 to 700 residents in town saying, “Wait a minute, I need a tax reduction,” he said. “Once you open the door, the door’s open. I think there’s a lot to think about when it comes to the public good.”

But much of the burden has been lifted from OmniWind as the state deems small energy wind systems as inherently beneficial, McDonald said.

The applicant argues 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.

A law passed by the State Senate and General Assembly in November 2009 changed the definition of “inherently beneficial use” to include wind structures. Under a second law, municipalities are kept from “unreasonably” limiting small wind energy system installations.

According to OmniWind, the only potential detriment noted was the visual impact of installing windmills.

“I personally don’t think that you guys have enough information independently to really make a decision,” said Susan Guida, a resident of Jacqueline Court. “You have to have the interest of us, the people who live in this town, who vote in this town, whose children go to school with your children, you have to have our interest at heart.”

The application will be carried to Monday, Nov. 7 where the applicant will present their final argument, answer any additional questions and the board will make their decision.

Check Lacey Patch later this week for a more in depth look at the Walmart wind turbines.

Source:  By Elaine Piniat, Lacey Patch, patch.com 4 October 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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