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Town of Lockport seeks wind turbine regulations

LOCKPORT – The Town Board wants to regulate noncommercial wind turbines.

The board decided Wednesday to hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. May 4 on a proposed law that would restrict the height and location of wind power installations.

“This will not apply to commercial wind energy systems. They are not permitted in the town under our current zoning,” Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said.

The proposed law would limit the height of wind turbines to 165 feet and allow them only in the town’s agricultural, agricultural-residential or industrial zones. There would be a limit of two turbines per lot, and the property owner would be required to have at least 10 acres of land for each turbine.

The tower would have to be at least 500 feet from any house and at least 750 feet from any school, park or residential property line, unless the neighbor agreed to waive that setback.

The wind power generated by the turbine would have to be used on-site, and the Planning Board would have to approve a site plan and special permit for any turbine. The turbine owner would have to pay the town a $500 application fee plus an administrative fee of $150 a year.

Norris said the Town Board won’t be able to vote on the law until after it is approved by the Niagara County Planning Board, whose next meeting is May 16.

On another topic, the board ratified a new four-year contract with the town’s 18-member unit of the Civil Service Employees Association.

The pact, which takes effect Jan. 1, will give all CSEA members pay raises of 50 cents an hour next year, 55 cents in 2018 and 60 cents in 2019 and 2020.

Councilman Paul W. Siejak said health insurance costs remain unchanged. Workers hired before Feb. 16, 2004, pay nothing toward their premiums, and those hired since then pay 15 percent.

“All sides, including CSEA, worked diligently to make this happen,” Supervisor Mark C. Crocker said.

Also Wednesday, Chief Building Inspector Brian M. Belson, who administers the town’s volunteer firefighter service awards program, reported that the pension liability of $4.65 million is 76.7 percent funded. Only 11 volunteers currently are receiving benefits, a figure that will increase by three members this year and by eight next year. No benefits are paid until the volunteer or former volunteer reaches age 65.

The monthly benefit check is $20 for every year of service, limited to 30 years. There is a point system requiring volunteers to compile at least 50 points a year by responding to calls and taking part in other activities. They must respond to at least 10 percent of the company’s calls to qualify for pension credit.

Belson said members who remain active after age 65 receive a one-time check each year, which starts at $240 and doubles every year they remain active.