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County Planning Board disapproves of Brownville’s new proposed wind laws

CLAYTON – The Brownville Town Board submitted an application for a zoning law amendment to the Jefferson County Planning Board, including regulations on wind energy facilities, but the planners voted to disapprove the application and recommended a list of revisions for approval during their monthly meeting.

The amendment, which department Senior Planner Andy R. Nevin said was submitted Aug. 1, will regulate aspects of each wind energy facility including location, size and required permits to protect public health. Eight out of nine board members voted for the amendment’s disapproval. The one member, William Ferguson, abstained from the vote because he said he was a town resident.

“I’m not comfortable approving something that has … substantial errors,” said board Chairman David W. Prosser.

Board member Clifford P. Schneider said he believed many of the amendment’s regulations were outdated, claiming that some of them were originally composed in 2005.

“They’re 10 years old,” he said. “A lot of what I see here is dated.”

The Town Board proposed an overlay district for wind development and included a map of the proposed district, but the Planning Board found the map confusing and recommended that the Town Board revise it.

The Town Board’s proposed overlay district encompassed land that was east of the Lyme town border, south of the Clayton town border, west of County Route 180 and along both Witt Road and Smith Road, Dexter. Mr. Nevin said the last time the map was updated was in 2011, and that Interim Director Michael Bourcy had to redraw it onto a county map because both the boundaries and street labels were too confusing.

Mr. Nevin said proposed setback boundaries in the map, which incorporated a road setback boundary of 500 feet and a house setback boundary of 1,250 feet, did not correlate with the setback maximums in the amendment, which were at 1,500 feet. The setbacks were also labeled for Clayton instead of Brownville.

“(It was) kind of hard to follow,” Mr. Nevin said, adding that the map was sent to him on the day of the meeting.

The Planning Board found that the Town Board’s sections defining the setbacks for wind energy centers, which were written in Articles 9 and 10, did not align with the setback standards laid out in their requirements.

The amendment requires that wind developers build their facilities at least “2.5 times the height of the tower or 1,500 feet, whichever is more” from site boundaries, residences, sate highways, churches, schools or any village, town or county boundaries. In amendment Article 5, however, the Town Board requires that developers draw circles on their plot plan to ensure that each tower location will be set back by four times the tower height.

“To eliminate confusion, they should all be one thing,” Mr. Nevin said.

Mr. Nevin said the Town Board should address a lack of correlating measurements and rewrite the language defining its setbacks. He also said that the Town Board should include setbacks for nature preserves, including Perch Lake and the Chaumont Barrens, and Amish residences.

“They’re still taxpayers,” Mr. Prosser said.

Planning Board members were also concerned with the amendment’s noise standards and definitions and recommend that the Town Board revise them with more concise and updated language.

One definition regarding sound that Mr. Nevin said the Town Board should revise was the definition for ambient sound level, which should account for seasonal sound differences.

“The noise standard is outdated,” Mr. Nevin said.

The Planning Board also recommended that the Town Board rewrite other definitions listed in its amendment.

Mr. Nevin said the Planning Board recommended that the Town Board incorporate a definition for site boundary. The planners also found that the definition of residence, which was defined as a property that was “suitable for habitation” with electrical service and a water supply, was problematic because it excluded Amish residents.

“The staff perspective is that it kind of needs work,” Mr. Nevin said. “Things need to be tightened up.”

The Planning Board volunteered to discuss its concerns with the Town Board and help it revise its zoning amendment. Mr. Schneider also recommended that the Town Board speak with the Clayton, Cape Vincent and Lyme town councils for help with revising the amendment.

“We hope they will meet with the professional staff of the county Planning Board,” Mr. Prosser said.