After the lengthiest debate of Monday night’s Middletown Town Council meeting, the council voted 5-1 to extend the existing wind turbine moratorium for six more months beyond the current expiration date of Dec. 7, 2011. But a motion by the one dissenting voter, Councilor Barbara VonVillas, left open the possibility that the Council may exempt small wind turbines from the moratorium.
At its next meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 21, the council will examine whether to allow small wind turbines to be exempt from the moratorium. Planning Director Ron Wolanski clarified small wind as meaning a turbine that is less than 50 feet high.
The discussion about wind turbines was the result of a memorandum that Councilor Bruce Long had placed on the council’s docket, calling not only for an extension of the moratorium but also for commissioning a privately-funded study on the setbacks and impacts of wind turbines.
“The question has always been, what is the appropriate size and type of wind turbine for Middletown and what are its effects?” said Long, in explaining why he felt Middletown needed its own study, rather than waiting for one that will soon be released by the state.
But the council did not support the study, with several members voicing their belief that plenty of information about wind turbine effects already exists, and a privately funded study might be seen as biased. “Studies are useful only when they are unbiased and they are credible only when they are supported by credible sources,” said VonVillas.
Members of the public spoke for and against the wind turbine moratorium and study. Dick Adams, of Island Drive, urged the council not to extend the moratorium, describing the fact that Calvary United Methodist Church, on Turner Road, would like to build a turbine to address its energy needs, but cannot write any grant applications while the moratorium is in effect. Richard Price, of J.H. Dwyer Drive, however, urged council to extend the moratorium and commission the study: “It will delay things, but if you don’t do it, you will risk wind turbine permit applications coming in without adequate protection on the books.”
In response to Councilor Richard Cambra’s observation that the council needs to know more about what the residents of Middletown want in terms of wind turbines—“small, medium, large, or no wind turbines at all?”—Council President Art Weber suggested that a public hearing be held to gather information about the town’s preferences.
Although there is a moratorium in place, Middletown has an ordinance that allows residents to apply for special-use permits to build wind turbines, but it is generally felt that the ordinance needs to have more parameters. An application in the fall of 2010 from a resident who wanted to build a large turbine on her property, which is located near Second Beach, prompted the calls for closer analysis of the town’s ordinance.