Two years after plans to install a residential wind turbine in Garrison provoked a major controversy, Philipstown residents favoring or opposing such backyard “windmills” will get a fresh chance to voice their opinions when the Town Board convenes a public hearing Jan. 28.
At its formal monthly meeting Thursday night (Jan. 8), the Philipstown Town Board scheduled the hearing on a proposed new law designed to cover small-scale, power-generating turbines. Under the draft law, intended as an amendment to the zoning code adopted in 2011, each wind turbine would require a minimum lot area of one acre, and only one per lot would be permitted.
The board’s action is the latest development in a series that began in 2012 with the application for the wind turbine at a Garrison residence – an idea that sparked intense public interest. The Philipstown Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) eventually approved the Garrison project, but the protracted debate before both the ZBA and Town Board and the realization that town law did not adequately address such matters prompted the Town Board in November 2013 to declare a moratorium on further wind turbines and to research ways to regulate them.
The result is the proposed law “to better regulate the construction and use of wind energy conversion systems” – the long name for wind turbines. However, more briefly, it also discusses aspects of solar energy systems.
As provided in the draft law, along with meeting the acreage rule, wind turbines could not exceed 40 feet in height. Likewise, the draft mandates that such “accessory uses” comply with other town rules and “not create noise, traffic, dust, odor, or other impacts that exceed those normally associated with single-family residential uses.”
Furthermore, according to the draft law:
• The wind turbine must be screened “to the greatest extent practicable” by use of non-reflective paint, planting and maintaining natural landscaping “at property boundary areas where feasible,” or similar means.
• No lighting could be installed on the device.
• A turbine must be set back from all lot boundaries a minimum distance equivalent to the total tower height plus 10 additional feet.
• A locked fence must be placed around any turbine not incorporated into another legal structure that provides the equivalent safety protection.
In addition, the draft demands that if a wind energy conversion system or a solar energy facility is intended to generate electricity primarily for off-site consumption, rather than home use, its sponsors must obtain a special permit from the town Zoning Board of Appeals.
Given copies of the draft law to review last November, both the Philipstown Planning Board and the Putnam County Department of Planning, Development and Public Transportation found the draft acceptable and suggested no changes.
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