DENNING >> The Zoning Board of Appeals in this western Ulster County town has delayed action on an application by actor Judd Hirsch to have a 176-foot-tall, power-generating wind turbine on his Yeagerville Road property.
Board Chairman Mark Boncek said he and his colleagues will wait until they receive a recommendation from the Ulster County Planning Department.
“It helps us out up here because it takes a lot of pressure off about decision-making,” Boncek said. “Even though they (the county department) don’t make the decision, they will receive the entire packet and then give their recommendation.”
The Denning board had planned to take up the issue this week. Now, the matter is on hold until at least next month.
Several Denning residents have expressed concerned about the turbine proposal, and Boncek suspects the controversy is being enhanced by the fact that Hirsch is a celebrity. The 78-year-old actor has had big and small screen roles since the early 1970s and is known for the TV sitcoms “Taxi” and “Dear John” and such movies as “Independece Day” and “Without a Trace.”
“In Sullivan County town of Neversink, a wind turbine went up last year, and I didn’t know it was up until I was driving one day and saw it,” Boncek said. “I drive by the site every day and didn’t even know it was going up until it was there. Of course, that’s somebody who’s not famous.”
The proposal for the turbine on Hirsch’s 42.3-acre property requires approval from the Denning Zoning Board of Appeals because wind turbines are not included in the town’s land-use regulations.
“Our zoning laws were written in 1990 and adopted in 1992,” Boncek said. “There is nothing in our zoning laws covering this.”
Boncek said Hirsch is a longtime resident of Denning, a town of just 550 people , and is well-informed about the type of turbine being proposed.
“Mr. Hirsch has been here for over 40 years,” he said. “If you look at his bio, not his theater bio, the man holds a degree in physics. … My interest was his knowledge and was the (turbine) company duping the guy into this.”
Project engineer Sherret Chase last week said the turbine is proposed to generate 100,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and that there would be no excess sold back to the power grid.
A petition circulated by town residents contends Hirsch should consider solar energy panels instead.
“We believe that allowing the installation of a turbine of this scale … would unjustly disrupt the lives of all the people who live in its proximity,” the petition states. “In addition to the well-documented issues of noise, sunlight flickering, health concerns, impact on wildlife, the approval of its installation and the change of the land-use codes would open the door to all types of repercussions, including commercial enterprises that would bring nothing more than a marred landscape to the residents of the town of Denning.”
Franca Dantes said last week that she has owned a home across the road from Hirsch’s property for 28 years and is concerned the wind turbine will be visible above the tree line.
“Wind turbines can be nice in certain situations, but they can be very noisy and we are very concerned,” she said. “This is where we have chosen to live and spend our retirement. The last thing we want is something noisy 24/7 drilling in your head.”
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