LYNDONVILLE – Debating the multiplying-factor for setbacks Yates could require for wind turbines took a long view Saturday.
Sure, the handful to a few dozen 470- to 620-foot towers proposed for a wind energy project in the northwestern corner of the town pushed an ad-hoc committee to pursue amendments to Yates’ wind laws.
But what happens if there’s a proposal for 50 250-foot towers surrounding the village? Or a farm wanting to build a 900-foot tower in the boonies?
“We’re thinking about any applicant,” Supervisor Jim Simon said after the final, four-hour meeting of the Ad-Hoc Task Force to Review Yates Wind Energy Law.
The committee, which on Saturday included town council members Simon and John Riggi, Town Engineer Paul Chatfield and Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Gary Daum along with residents Cynthia Hellert, Andrew Cousins, Howard Pierce and attorney Chuck Malcolm, via phone, settled on set-backs of at least 1,800 feet or 4.5-times the turbine’s height from structures like homes, businesses and churches; and placements that must limit noise disturbances to 35 decibels A-rated and 50 decibels C-rated at night and 45-A and 63-C during the day inside residences.
Their draft plan went before a Yates Town Council workshop meeting Monday, and after their review a resolution to introduce a new local law will be made Thursday.
Simon anticipates the whole process to be completed in April, months ahead of when Apex Clean Energy plans to submit an application to a state siting board for a 201-megawatt wind energy network.
Somerset, where two-thirds of the potential land is targeted for Apex’s intended network, has already completed a local law revision. Simon said Yates’ new law would be roughly the same to their neighbor’s, with some changes specific to Yates.
At the final stages, that meant creating a law that didn’t just meet a localized and currently-present majority desire to push back against wind projects. It was building regulations that could stand up as reasonable, unburdensome and still protective of the interests of the town and its people.
“We’re being very finite because we want to do the best for the people, there’s a balance,” Daum said during the discussions. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to come up with ‘The Answer.’”
Pierce expects wind energy developers to adapt greater space between towers for efficiency and avoid being close to the edge of limitations set by the new plans. For a simple reason – they’re out to make money, not lose it.
“They won’t site them where they won’t work, they won’t put them so close,” Pierce said. “They’re putting $2 million in these, they want them to work.”
But the committee also pushed for greater protections, like a graduated model to force developers to guarantee property values within a mile at 100 percent down to 50 percent town wide, and to require a baseline health study for anyone interested in having one done by their own doctor.
“I know that (developers) are not willing to pay for this kind of thing, but if we are sworn to protect the health and well-being of the town, we have to,” Riggi said.
Simon said the town council will also consider adding biofuel and solar energy projects to wind on a list of projects that would not received PILOT incentives. It’s a bargaining chip, he said, but one that needed to be set into town law more equitably.
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