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Board postpones public hearing over wind turbine

Town of Ancram officials moved Monday to have the Zoning Board of Appeals postpone a public hearing into a local alpaca farmer’s wind turbine until September, after neighbors’ noise complaints could be investigated by the county’s Board of Health.

But the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets certified, last month that Millerton farmer Joe Crocco’s turbine does qualify as a “farm structure,” despite the town’s disapproval. Town Supervisor Art Bassin has asked the state agency for a 30-day extension to appeal, in light of the county’s investigation.

“Pending the results of the [Board of Health] investigation, and the final determination of [New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets,] I have determined that in the interest of judicial economy, and fairness to the applicant, it doesn’t make sense to conduct a public hearing on the [notice of violation] and appeal,” board Chairwoman Leah Wilcox said.

She then added the board not act until a “final determination” could be reached by the state agency.

However, Crocco’s attorney Robert Davis argued in a June letter the state’s decision to treat Copper Star Alpaca Farm’s turbine as a legitimate farm structure not only supersedes the town’s notice of violation, but also its Non-Commercial Wind Power Facilities Law of 2011.

“The Department also notes that our client has voluntary undertaken actions since the [notice of violation] to further reduce the sound of the turbine,” Davis stated.

It also remained unclear if the town could demonstrate why Crocco’s turbine threatened the general public’s health or safety, he wrote.

“[T]here is no empirical basis or expert support for any such claim and none has been offered by the Town to date,” Davis added.

The Ancram Town Board voted last February to strip Crocco, and neighbor Michael Gershon, of the special use permits the Zoning Board of Appeals had previously awarded for the Carson Road turbines in 2010.

Last April, Zoning Enforcement Officer Edward Ferratto slapped Crocco with a notice of violation, Wilcox said, for misrepresenting the turbine’s noise level.

The Zoning Board of Appeals met again, two months later, to weigh postponing Crocco’s initial public hearing for Monday, July 1. By then, Crocco had appealed Ferratto’s decision. He was also anticipating a reply from Robert Summers, manager of the Agricultural Protection Unit, at the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.

On Monday, Crocco told board members he had replaced the turbine’s inverter, as of last week, but saw no further issues.

The town, though, had already spent more than $10,000 prosecuting him, he added.

Board members rescheduled Crocco’s public hearing for Monday, Sept. 23. The Zoning Board of Appeals has already set Gershon’s public hearing for Monday, Sept. 16.