The Somerset Planning Board rejected Lighthouse Wind’s request for two special use permits it needs before it can erect meteorological towers on private property in the town.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the board determined that the meteorological towers are a Type 1 action based on New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations and requested Lighthouse Wind to submit a full environmental assessment form before a special use permit is granted.
According to SEQRA, any structure exceeding 100-feet above the original ground level in a locality without any zoning regulations pertaining to height is considered a Type 1 action, requiring a full environmental assessment.
The planning board raised several concerns about the safety and environmental impact of the meteorological towers, including set-backs, air and ground safety and aesthetics.
Although Lighthouse Wind addressed those concerns in a short environmental assessment form, SEQRA regulations require a more in-depth assessment.
Once submitted to the board, the assessment would be reviewed and the request would be considered once again.
For the past year, Lighthouse Wind has been working with the Somerset Planning Board in an effort to install two more temporary towers on two private properties for data collection. The data collected would allow Lighthouse Wind to determine the viability of its proposed wind turbine project in the town.
Lighthouse Wind has already erected two towers. One is in Somerset on Lower Lake Road across from the Golden Hill State Park entrance and the other is in Yates near the intersection of Marshall and Lower Lake roads.
Lighthouse Wind was disappointed with the planning board’s decision.
“We are surprised by the planning board’s decision this past Wednesday night, as it appears inconsistent with statements they previously made with respect to this application,” Lighthouse Wind development manager Taylor Quarles said. “We are currently evaluating our options moving forward.”
David Alt, owner of the West Somerset Road property where one of the towers would be placed, said he thinks the board is going “overboard” to create extra requirements for the towers when three towers with guy wires and two cell phone towers with guy wires already exist in the town.
“I think it’s a bit excessive,” Alt said. “The landowner should be able to do with their land as they see fit.”
However, planning board members claim their decision was not to completely dismiss the towers, but to get more information regarding safety and environmental concerns.
The board’s major concern remains with the guy wires, since one of the towers would be erected in an area frequented by people riding snowmobiles and ATVs.
The aesthetic concerns are because the towers would be highly visible from the Seaway Trail and from town hall, according to John Hotaling, board president. The orange and white color of the towers also played a factor.
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