CLAYTON – Signaling its opposition to the Horse Creek wind project, the Town Council will consider replacing current wind laws with one that would completely ban industrial wind projects and the construction of wind measurement towers.
On Wednesday, the board introduced drafts of the local wind law and a related proposal that would amend the town’s zoning ordinance by removing the Wind Energy Facility Overlay District in the town’s southern end, where Iberdrola Renewables is planning its project. Turbines are currently permitted within the overlay district if they comply with permitting rules and the current wind law, but they’d be banned altogether if the proposed law and amendment are approved.
To get feedback from the community about the proposals, the board decided to hold a public hearing on the matter at 6 p.m. March 23 at the Clayton Opera House. After reviewing feedback from the public hearing, the board could consider approving the proposals as early as its April 6 meeting, according to town Supervisor David Storandt Jr.
Drafts of the proposals are available at www.townofclayton.com.
Mr. Storandt said the board intends to send a clear statement with the local law and amendment: The community is overwhelmingly opposed to industrial turbines.
“We see this as the strongest statement we can make in terms of not wanting turbines here, and that’s why the law is short,” he said. “The real trick will be getting respect for the local law in the Article 10 process and to see if the state agencies are interested in listening to it.”
The proposed law’s ban on “industrial and commercial wind energy facilities” is a radical departure from the wind law approved in 2007, which was amended twice by local laws approved in 2011.
If current the current wind law is repealed in favor of the new one, it would likely be more difficult for Iberdrola to get its still-undefined project approved under the Article 10 siting process led by the state Public Service Commission. While the PSC is charged with taking local laws into consideration as part of the review, it could supersede the local law and approve the project.
While centered in south Clayton, the project is expected to encompass a part of Orleans and possibly Brownville and Lyme, according to the Iberdrola’s stated intent to put up meteorological towers in those towns to measure wind speeds. Iberdrola plans soon to begin the Article 10 preapplication process for the project.
While the 2007 wind law allows wind turbines of up to 500 feet within the wind overlay district, the proposed law would ban them altogether.
It states: “No Industrial or Commercial Wind Energy Facilities shall be constructed, reconstructed, modified, or operated in the Town of Clayton.” Those facilities are defined as systems with a generating capacity of more than 100 kilowatts that are designed to connect to the power grid and/or sell electricity.
Small Wind Energy Conversion Systems, which are still allowed under the draft law, are defined as those operated in connection with agricultural operations that consist of a turbine with a capacity of not more than 100 kilowatts or 110 percent of anticipated electrical needs, whichever is greater.
A section of the draft law declares various “findings” by the council as rationale for opposing commercial and industrial wind projects. In referring to such projects, the findings cite “potential negative aesthetic impacts because of their large site, lighting, and shadow flicker effects”; their potential “risks to the property values of adjoining property owners”; their potential to be “significant sources of noise, and their negative impact on scenic viewsheds and beauty of the region, which “will be detrimental to the region’s tourism industry.”
It also notes that turbine technology has evolved since the enactment of current wind laws, resulting in a “significant increase in the height of the towers and the size of the turbines” that will increase the radius of the viewshed.
Mr. Storandt said that Iberdrola plans to propose turbines from 600 to 650 feet tall, which would have a much greater impact on the visual impact than its previous proposal. He said he believes that could have a crippling effect on the town’s tourism-based economy.
“The visual impact of the tops of these turbines is so big and extends far beyond the wind overlay district, the town and even the county because you could see these quite easily in Gananoque and Kingston,” he said.
He added that at Wednesday’s meeting, Jefferson County Legislator Michael J. Docteur said the Board of Legislators wouldn’t be willing to approve a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for Iberdrola’s project.
Because it would be no longer applicable, an entire section in the 2007 wind law governing industrial turbines is excluded from the proposed law. That section, updated in 2011, includes numerous rules about the placement of turbines. Among other things, rules call for turbines to have a setback at least 1,250 feet from residences and limit turbine noise at 45 dBA, or A-weighted decibels.
Mr. Storandt said all town board members helped develop the proposed law except for Donna J. Patchen, who currently holds a lease agreement made in 2008 with Atlantic Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola. He said that Mrs. Patchen has agreed to recuse herself from voting on all wind-related business conducted by the board.
BAN ON METEOROLOGICAL TOWERS?
The proposed law would also prohibit meteorological towers, which are used to measure wind speeds.
That is notable in light of the developer’s plan to put up a pair of towers in the wind overlay district, where they currently are a permitted use.
The joint village and town Planning Board held a public hearing March 3 on the proposal. Because the Planning Board requested more information before deciding on the proposal, the public hearing was adjourned until its next meeting at 7 p.m. on April 7.
If the Planning Board were to approve Ibderdrola’s request for the towers before the Town Council approves its wind law banning them, Mr. Storandt said, then the developer’s special-use permits to operate the towers would be “grandfathered in and have a lifespan of three years.” But he said if the Town Council were to approve the local law on April 6 – before the Planning Board’s April 7 meeting – Iberdrola would no longer be eligible for the towers.
The Planning Board can act on the matter based on the town’s current wind law, Mr. Storandt said, and it isn’t obligated to wait for the Town Council to consider approving the proposed law.
“If they see it as valid under the current rules, that’s fine,” he said.
If Iberdrola were to be banned by the town from erecting meteorological towers, Mr. Storandt said, it would be required to pursue approval for them through the Article 10 process.
Planning Board Chairman Roland A. “Bud” Baril – who will retire on Tuesday as chairman – said that Iberdrola’s application for the towers will be reviewed based on the current wind law.
“Until the law changes, we need to deal with the current law,” he said.
Former town Supervisor Justin A. Taylor declined to comment on Thursday.
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