WATERTOWN – State officials held a workshop at Jefferson Community College Tuesday night geared toward helping residents understand the pros and cons of wind energy projects and how they can be adequately blocked by municipalities, if they so choose.
The two-hour presentation was put on by Christopher Eastman, manager of the Local Government Training program at the New York Department of State.
Much of the session centered on how municipalities opposed to wind projects can conduct studies and develop comprehensive plans that spell out justifications for opposing the construction of a wind project within the community’s boundaries.
For a comprehensive plan to carry weight, Mr. Eastman said, there needs to be an adequate justification to slow the development of a wind project so it can be taken under close consideration during a project’s Article 10 review process.
“If it’s something that the community feels should be implemented in zoning regulations and there’s a lot of justification for it, I think that’s probably your best defense,” Mr. Eastman said. “I don’t think that throwing up your hands because of Article 10, saying, ‘well the state’s going to do whatever the state’s going to do; it’s out of our hands’ is the correct response. It’s as important as ever to go through the comprehensive planning process and to have regulations on the books that reflect the goals of the comprehensive plan and the community.”
Municipal regulations, Mr. Eastman said, must clearly address residential, agricultural and commercial systems and whether the regulations affect the entire municipality or specific districts as well as how a wind project could be detrimental to the environment, from noise pollution to bird fatalities.
Mr. Eastman noted the town of Clayton’s development of a comprehensive plan as an example.
The town approved a six-month moratorium in May as Iberdrola Renewables pursues its Horse Creek wind project that would be mainly in Clayton and expected to incorporate the towns of Orleans, Lyme and Brownville. The developer has said it soon plans to start the pre-application process for a state-required Article 10 review of its still-undefined project.
More recently, conflicts have arisen over the town’s implementation of Local Law No. 5, which seeks to regulate the application, development and placement of wind energy facilities to protect public health and safety and to minimize the negative impacts of wind development.
Residents have argued that the law does not take into account potential noise violations that could cause health problems.