CANAJOHARIE – The town passed a local law regulating the height, noise levels and setbacks of windmills, and other towns are re-examining where their laws stand.
The local law also requires anyone who builds either a commercial or residential wind-energy conversion system to obtain a permit from the town.
Builders of commercial units must have a site plan made by a professional surveyor or licensed engineer. Homeowners or small business owners building smaller units can submit their own plans along with specifications provided by the manufacturer of the unit.
Builders of smaller, non-electrical windmills are not required to obtain permits, according to the law.
Building plans must include descriptions of the property lines and dimensions of the site, as well as information on public roads and adjoining properties within 500 feet of the site, according to the local law.
The location of each proposed windmill, above-ground and below-ground utility lines and all other facilities near the site must be included as well.
Commercial windmills must be inspected annually by a professional engineer, according to the local law. Smaller units are exempt from that requirement.
Officials in other areas are discussing local laws as well, but some municipalities, including Minden, already have imposed moratoriums on windmill construction.
“We’ve had a moratorium in place on windmills so we could come up with laws and regulations regarding that,” Minden Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush said. “We take the same approach with that as we do with hydrofracking. We don’t want to say no to it, but we don’t want to say yes to it either until we know more about it.”
Town residents have several concerns regarding windmills, Quackenbush said.
“One issue is ‘flicker’ – the light a windmill gives off,” he said. “Windmills also have killed birds.”
But the biggest concern is the effect windmills would have on municipal infrastructure, Quackenbush said.
“These windmills are huge,” he said. “They’re so heavy they would damage the infrastructure.”
Quackenbush said the town of Harrisburg in Lewis County has made improvements to its infrastructure to accommodate windmills.
“They ripped up their gas and water lines and replaced them,” he said. “It was good for that town.”
Another issue is how windmills would be taxed, Quackenbush said.
“If you don’t have anything in place, you’ll never collect tax revenue or anything from it,” he said.
The town of Mohawk has had a moratorium on windmills in place for a few years, according to supervisor Greg Rajkowski.
“When I was on the Planning Board four or five years ago, we put a moratorium on windmills,” he said. “We looked into it, and we got some information on windmills. We visited a windmill site in Utica to see what the noise level was and look at other issues, but we didn’t do anything with it.”
Rajkowski has been town supervisor for three years, and in that time, no one has inquired about windmills, he said. The town Planning Board will examine the issue of windmills along with their other projects, he said.
A local law regulating windmills is not at the top of the list of the board’s priorities, according to Chairman Wayne DeMallie.
“Right now we’re working on the town maintenance laws and the comprehensive plan,” DeMallie said this morning.
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