Alec Baldwin has sunk time and money into preserving the charm and character of his beloved East Hampton, one of the last corners of Long Island to resist dramatic development. But that opposition to change may endanger his own plan: to build a 120-foot-tall wind turbine on his Amagansett property.
The “30 Rock” star’s proposal to erect a turbine that can generate up to 10,000 kilowatts of electricity a year is jeopardized by a strict set of rules intended to preserve the area’s rural and historic scenery—something that Mr. Baldwin himself has fought for in a part of suburbia where signs of its farming and fishing roots are still visible.
In seeking to install the machine—which would be the first residential turbine in a town that has a windmill on its seal—Mr. Baldwin said he is trying to escape the Long Island Power Authority’s high rates and draw attention to the need for renewable energy.
“I want to build something that is environmentally forward-thinking,” he said. “I’m not building a satellite dish so I can watch the Knicks game.”
A Long Island native—he grew up in Massapequa—Mr. Baldwin will have to overcome several hurdles before the turbine can be built.
First, he’ll need to contend with rules put in place by the Potter family, the former owners of the 69-acre farm that was subdivided in 1995 into 12 lots that include Mr. Baldwin’s. Provisions attached to the subdivision regulate the pitches of roofs and style of window frames allowed there, and while they don’t mention wind turbines, they do ban radio towers and dish antennas.
Job Potter, a member of that family, declined to say whether he and his relatives would allow the turbine to go forward.
“I talked with my family,” he said. “Because, obviously, Alec is a celebrity, our feeling was that we really didn’t want to discuss this matter with the press, that we would work directly with Mr. Baldwin.”
If he works past the subdivision’s rules, Mr. Baldwin would need the East Hampton Town Board to approve his project after years of financially supporting groups that oppose development in the town.
Last year, the actor gave the East Hampton branch of the Democratic Party, which traditionally pushes a platform of environmental and historic preservation, its largest individual donation—$10,000. He also helped start a political action committee, the East Hampton Conservators, to combat overdevelopment in East Hampton.
Although Mr. Baldwin said his eight-acre property is large enough to keep the machine a comfortable distance from other people, he is concerned neighbors, uneasy about the aesthetics, could sway the Town Board. “All of my neighbors are front and center against the wind turbine,” he said.
As yet, no public opposition has emerged. Some nearby residents say they have no problem with the plan. Kent Miller, who lives near Mr. Baldwin on Town Lane, said he supports the proposal, calling the neighborhood “incredibly rural.”
“Where we are, the whole Town Lane, there is so much open space,” he said. “We really need this alternative energy, and we need to make it work somehow.”
The proposal, which will require a public hearing, has also found early support from at least one former adversary of Mr. Baldwin’s: East Hampton’s supervisor, Bill Wilkinson, a Republican whom Mr. Baldwin once accused of trying to “suburbanize” East Hampton.
“I have no issues with it,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “I think there is adequate property there. I think it would be a nice application, in spite of what the property owner writes in the papers about me.”
Mr. Baldwin’s turbine would be one of only 13 on Long Island, according to LIPA. East Hampton, like other Long Island towns, has few rules regulating wind turbine installation beyond requiring Town Board approval. Suffolk County is working with the island’s five easternmost towns, where almost all of the island’s wind turbines currently stand, to come up with a uniform set of rules.
Mr. Baldwin’s turbine is expected to cost $97,050, but that price will be offset by an anticipated $38,185 rebate from LIPA and a $17,660 federal tax credit, according to GreenLogic, a renewable energy company that prepared Mr. Baldwin’s application. LIPA has subsidized “backyard” wind turbines since 2009.
There may be some concern that Mr. Baldwin could start a trend. Mr. Wilkinson has asked his office to explore what the town would look like if all residents eligible to put up windmills did so.
The supervisor pointed to his Montauk neighborhood of 400 homes as an example: “What if all of them wanted to put up wind turbines? We have to have some discipline to this. We have to have some standards.”
If the proposal is struck down, Mr. Baldwin said he hopes it sparks a conversation about where wind turbines could go on Long Island, if not rural neighborhoods like his. “The bottom line is, this technology is going to come,” he said. “There are going to be wind turbines everywhere in this country.”
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