Wind Energy Conservation Systems – or turbines – have become a popular means for many local farmers to save on their energy costs. And in the first half of 2015, multiple Clarence property owners filed for variances to the town’s Satellite, Antennas and Towers local law, which only allows structures to be a maximum of 60 feet tall.
Originally adopted in 1997 amid numerous requests for satellite towers, the local law never addressed WECS with only the 60-foot tower height limitation identified in all zones.
According to Director of Community Development James Callahan, the Zoning Board of Appeals has been hearing requests for height variances with no formal basis in local law to guide decision making. And some of those requests have gotten contentious.
Three months ago, the Zoning Board of Appeals denied Thompson Brothers Greenhouse’s application for a 133.5-foot-tall turbine following an outcry from neighboring residents.
In April of this year, the Town Board referred to the Planning Board a request to review WECS and make a formal recommendation on how to deal with the variance applications.
After reviewing the issue, the Planning Board proposed amending the law to allow for a maximum 80-foot WECS, with an additional 15-foot allowance for blade height above the tower – or 95 feet – for properties of at least five acres.
During a public hearing regarding the proposed amendment as part of the July 8 Town Board meeting, two residents aired concerns that allowing wind turbines taller than the current 60-foot threshold would deter from the town’s character. It was also suggested that more input from the community about WECS before Master Plan 2025 is adopted later this year would be beneficial.
No action was taken on the proposal.
In another matter following a separate public hearing, the Town Board approved the Planning Board’s recommended amendment to the multifamily housing zoning law, providing for small-scale retail uses in the Restricted Business zone.
The amendment identifies the special circumstances and conditions under which the Planning Board may recommend small-scale retail uses. The maximum size of any small-scale unit is 2,500 square feet.
Not everyone on the Town Board felt the amendment, which included types of uses for the retail, was a good thing. Councilman Bernard Kolber said he felt that convincing an appeals board that a variance for uses that do not fit those recommended is very difficult to do and could impede property owners from finding tenants.
“I don’t like this, and it’s not because of it being small-scale retail in the Restricted Business zone,” Kolber said. “It’s the fact that it’s being tied together and put under a multifamily law, which I think is the tail wagging the dog on this. It ties two things together that perhaps just shouldn’t be.”
The next Town Board meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, at Town Hall, 1 Town Place.
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