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Somerset may amend zoning law

SOMERSET – Supervisor Dan Engert presented a proposed local law Wednesday that would amend the Somerset town zoning code regarding commercial and industrial wind energy conversion systems, such as those being proposed by Lighthouse Wind.

According to the changes, no commercial or industrial wind energy conversion system would be allowed within a minimum of 1,500 feet from any residential district boundary line or from the Town of Somerset Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. Turbines would have to be a minimum of two times its total height away from any building, and two times its total height from any property line, excluding adjoining lot lines of the project participants.

Setbacks would be set at a minimum of 1,500 feet or two times the total height from any public road and highway. Turbines would also have to be a minimum half-mile from the boundary of the village of Barker, a minimum 2,000 feet from residences and a minimum 2,000 feet from another commercial or industrial turbine.

Noise standards under the new law state that the equivalent level generated by a wind energy conversion system cannot exceed an A-weighted level of 45 decibels during the daytime hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. At night, the level is set at 35 decibels from the hours of 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Regarding property values, an amendment was made in the proposed local law to create a property value protection plan. The plan essentially states that the turbines owner, such as Apex, will assure the Town of Somerset that there will be no loss in real property value within two miles of each wind turbine.

In order to support this claim, the owner must consent in writing to a real property value protection agreement. The agreement would assure non-participating real property owners near the turbines that they have some protection from related real property value losses.

If the property value is to decline, a reimbursement plan can be exercised by the property owner through the plan, Engert said.

From July to December, the Commercial Wind Energy Local Law Ad Hoc Advisory Review Committee reviewed the current zoning code. As a result of the six-month long review, the committee presented town officials with a 100-page document for review.

Board members were on board with the new local law, with the exception of board member Gary Alt who abstained.

Through the Article X law, municipalities are stripped of the decision-making in regards to industrial projects, leaving the final decision in the hands of the state. However, Article X also anticipates to comply with local laws and regulations, Engert said, therefore the amended law will become compatible with the Article X law and regulations.

“The law is not to restrict turbines,” Engert said. “The law is intended to bring a positive impact to the developer to take into account the significant concerns made by the community.”

A full outline of the amended law can be found on the Somerset website at somersetny.org under the “town news” tab. It can be found by clicking the link titled “Town Board Workshop Monday 1/18 @ 4:30 p.m.”

That workshop at 4:30 p.m. Monday for the Town Board to discuss the proposed local law, which would amend Chapter 205 Zoning in the Town of Somerset. The workshop is open to the public.

A public hearing will then take place for members of the community to speak on behalf of the amended local law at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 1. After, the board can take further action to adopt the law if they wish.