September 15, 2016
New York

Clayton and county residents urge wind law revisions

By Marcus Wolf | Watertown Daily Times | September 16, 2016 |

CLAYTON – Clayton and Jefferson County residents encouraged the Clayton Town Council to revise multiple regulations in its proposed wind law, Local Law No. 5, during a public hearing Wednesday at the Clayton Opera House.

The town board composed Local Law No. 5 to regulate wind energy facilities in ways that protect its citizens’ health and safety and to repeal Local Laws No. 1 and 2. The majority of the 12 speakers received a round of applause when they approached the podium and shared their concerns regarding the proposed law.

“What I ask is that you do utilize all of the experts you previously talked to and a wind attorney that will focus on the community by and large and not on a paycheck,” Dexter resident Jamie Lee said.

Several county residents suggested revisions to the proposed law’s noise regulations.

Both Clayton resident Christopher Hopper, a sound engineer, and Chaumont resident Don Metzger said the board should include infrasound regulations, arguing that high levels of infrasound can lead to significant health problems. Infrasound is low-frequency sound that is typically not picked up by human ears.

“I fear infrasound more than anything else,” Mr. Metzger said.

Clayton resident Cindy Grant said that in order to address potential noise violations, the town board should require the town zoning enforcement officer place three noise measurement devices in locations unknown to the developers so that if a noise violation occurs, the developers would have to pinpoint the source in 48 hours or risk having the turbine shut down from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“That way our residents can get some sleep,” she said.

Three Mile Bay resident Kathleen Dillon asked town board members why they included sections that allow developers to negotiate noise and property setback easements with property owners.

Ms. Dillon said the town board should remove its section on noise setback easements because allowing setback easements, particularly for noise levels, could subject landowners to health risks and would undermine the local law’s authority.

“Why is bribing citizens OK?” she said. “This item … should be removed.”

A few people also proposed tighter regulations to prevent other potential negative impacts from wind energy infrastructure.

Mr. Metzger said the town board should include regulations on stray voltage. Mr. Hopper said the board should decrease the property value study area from five miles from a prospective wind project area to two miles. Ms. Grant said the board should include regulations that require radon gas testing and water testing for all water sources that could be affected by a wind energy project.

“You know a lot of people get problems with their lungs because (radon) gets into water sources,” she said.

To give the board time to revise both Local Law No. 5 and the town and village comprehensive plan, Clayton resident Gunther A. Schaller suggested the board pursue an extension on the town’s wind moratorium.

Mr. Schaller said the town board should focus on revising the comprehensive plan prior to Local Law No. 5 because it regulates all types of future development. He also said an underdeveloped comprehensive plan would undermine the town board’s original arguments for having the moratorium.

“There is a lot to get right,” he said.

Scott McDonald, the senior business developer for Avangrid Renewables, which owns Atlantic Wind LLC and the Horse Creek Wind Farm project, said Local Law No. 5 “essentially” banned wind development.

Mr. McDonald said it was the town board’s responsibility to the town and the state to pursue alternative forms of energy. He also said the regulations of the proposed wind law were based on outdated studies and information supplied by outsiders with anti-wind-development biases.

“It makes sense for the town and the company to work together … and benefit through wind farm development,” he said. “I respectfully request that the town remains open to wind.”

Town Supervisor David M. Storandt Jr. said the town board will require further discussion and thought before determining its next plan for Local Law No. 5.

“I felt that (this meeting) was an example of the way Clayton handles issues,” Clayton resident Kenneth Knapp said. “It should be clear that the town is doing everything it can to protect its citizens.”

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