CLARYVILLE – He usually plays tough-talking but softhearted mensches. But now actor Judd Hirsch is being cast by some as a real-life villain for proposing to put a 176-foot-tall wind turbine on his mountaintop estate.
Neighbors are afraid the single turbine would damage the tiny town’s viewshed and disturb the deep quiet of a town that lies within the Catskill Park.
Hirsch is best known for his Emmy-award-winning role as Alex Rieger in the TV sitcom “Taxi” and for playing Jeff Goldblum’s incessantly kvetching father in the movie “Independence Day.”
Hirsch owns about 100 acres of mountainous property near Yeagerville Road.
The controversy surrounding his proposed plan – which would produce energy for his property – has put Denning (pop. 530) in a limelight it’s not used to.
“The only thing I’ve got to say at this point is we’re going through the legal process,” town Supervisor Bill Bruning said last week.
Since the town has no laws concerning wind turbines, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Ulster County Planning Board are reviewing it, Bruning said.
A petition opposing the proposal that contained 92 names – not all of them from town residents – was presented to the town board last week.
“It’s been a very civil exchange,” Bruning said.
In the meantime, the project’s engineer, Sherret Chase, dismissed the opponents of the proposal as “a big to-do about nothing.”
Chase said the turbine would not be visible to neighbors, nor cause noise or injure birds, as has been alleged by opponents.
“They (opponents) have gotten a knot in their knickers and are throwing a hissy fit over nothing,” he said.
Not so, says John Byron Kuhner, an opponent of the proposal who’s also an advocate for wind energy.
“I think it’s a horrible precedent, particularly given the fact that the entire town of Denning is completely within the boundaries of the Catskill State Park.” The park land, he said, has been specifically designated “forever wild.”
“I don’t think it should be considered a mere staging-ground for the energy industry.”
A further decision on the proposal isn’t expected until at least early December.
Judd Hirsch could not be reached for comment.
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