CHAUMONT – Based on the results of a townwide survey, the Planning Board will begin drafting changes to the town’s comprehensive plan to reflect opposition to wind turbines in the town.
The survey showed a margin of opposition of nearly two to one, so the Town Council agreed at a special meeting Wednesday night to have the Planning Board suggest changes to the plan based on that.
“Step one is the plan,” Councilman Warren A. Johnson said. “Step two is the law.”
Mr. Johnson, who introduced the resolution, said the Planning Board should follow “the results of the survey.” The motion passed 4-1; Councilman Donald J. Bourquin opposed it, because he said he believes an outright ban will be knocked down by New York state in any siting proceedings through the Public Service Commission, commonly known as Article X.
“If we put in an outright ban on them, we know it will be ignored,” he said.
Councilman Daniel J. Villa disagreed.
“I don’t think we should tailor laws based on whether or not we’ll be sued,” he said. “We should pass it based on what the people have said.”
Of the 1,621 respondents to the survey, 64 percent opposed turbines while 35 percent supported them, according to results given to the town Monday and reported by Paul G. Carr, chairman of the town committee that examined health and safety issues related to wind power, who compiled the results.
The town mailed 5,000 surveys to taxpayers and voters.
“All we needed was 300 for reliable results,” he said. “We had a great response.”
The breakdown of respondents by area in the town was similar to that of the 2007 survey. Then, 52 percent of residents who responded to a similar survey supported turbines.
The smaller populations in the Case Road area and along Route 12E east of Chaumont had strong support for turbines, with smaller margins of support from people east of Route 12E north of the Chaumont River, the village of Chaumont and the hamlet of Three Mile Bay. A wide margin of opposition was voiced by populations on Point Peninsula, Three Mile Point and Point Salubrious.
A second question asked where turbines would be acceptable to the respondents. A majority – 57.9 percent – said “nowhere.” Neither the area north of the Chaumont River and east of Route 12E nor the area south of the Chaumont River and east of Route 12E had a majority of support.
In a report on the results, Mr. Carr tested those results if waterfront dwellers are excluded. In that case, the area the area north of the Chaumont River and east of Route 12E showed only slim support, 52 percent, which was within the margin of error. But the area south of the Chaumont River and east of Route 12E lacked support, at 36 percent.
“There’s really no mandate for them to be anywhere,” said Mr. Carr, also an engineering professor at Cornell University, Ithaca.
The survey asked residents what setbacks would be appropriate for the turbines from the water and population centers. Again, residents said at a rate of 60 percent that they did not want turbines in the town. Setbacks of greater than 4,500 feet had the highest percentage of support.
Residents did not want to have turbines increase ambient noise levels by five decibels or more at a overwhelming rate of 83 percent. An increase of five to 10 decibels was acceptable to 8.5 percent of respondents and increasing amounts had less than 4 percent support.
The responses on both setbacks and noise requirements matched the 2007 survey, which had been criticized as confusing because of some possibly ambiguous wording.
The council again passed a six-month moratorium against wind power development, including transmission lines and personal towers. Mr. Bourquin again cast the sole opposing vote. Wind power proponents wanted an exception for transmission lines so that St. Lawrence Wind Farm could proceed with its plan to run a line through the town.
The public comments and discussion of the wind survey results drew ire about a recent blog post by Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine, in which he said he would stand by the year-round residents and keep zoning open for wind turbines.
“I am going to follow the wishes of the year round people of the town of Lyme,” he wrote on Tuesday night. “I will NOT vote to ban turbines. I will NOT vote to adopt a law so restrictive it effectively keeps wind development out of the town of Lyme. The ‘year round voters’ have spoken.”
Mr. Villa countered that Wednesday night.
“Up until I saw the report of the survey, I would’ve been supportive of proper placement of turbines,” he said. “But based on this now, I will have to vote to not have turbines in the town. It’s not a decision based on my own opinion, but it’s based on the opinion of the majority of the people in this community. Everyone in this community has the right to be heard and all taxpayers need to be treated equally.”
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