Lame duck members of the Bridgehampton Township Board have rejected proposed amendments for stricter zoning on wind energy systems.
And the company that’s attempting to build a wind farm in the township is calling for a public hearing on its special land use application under the current zoning rules.
On a 3-1 vote last Thursday, outgoing Supervisor Mike Haggerty, Clerk Sue Bower and Trustee Dianne Detgen turned down the amendments recommended by the planning commission that required longer setbacks for wind turbines from non-participating properties, and stricture rules on shadow flicker and sound pressure – decibel levels – from turbines.
Treasurer Alan Innes abstained from the vote because of a conflict of interest – a wind turbine lease agreement with wind energy developer Exelon Corporation, and Trustee Kathy Kelly voted no.
“I was disappointed the board turned down (the amendments) that the planning commission worked weeks and months on,” said Kelly, the board’s representative to the planning commission.
“Why have one if the board totally ignores their proposals.”
Approximately 20 people attended the Oct. 13 meeting.
“No one spoke for the windmills, not one person,” said Kelly. “Everyone spoke against.”
The speakers included township resident Chris Martinelli, who has been an outspoken critic of Exelon’s plans for a wind farm and a proponent of tighter zoning requirements for wind turbine permits.
Martinelli said he urged the board to table the zoning amendments until the new board could be seated after the Nov. 8 election.
Voters are expected to elect a new supervisor and clerk and possibly two new trustees in the general election. The current supervisor, Haggerty, clerk, Bower and trustee, Detgen were all defeated in the August primary.
Leo Sonck, chairman of the planning commission and a proponent of the amendments, defeated Haggerty in the primary and is unopposed in November. Shelly McCarty, who also supports the amendments, defeated Bower in the primary and is also opposed in November. Incumbent Trustee Kelly and newcomer Tony Hewitt advanced to the general election after defeating Detgen and newcomer Douglas Sweet in August, and would have been unopposed for the two seats had Martinelli not filed for council as an independent after the primary.
Innes is running unopposed for treasurer.
“The current board yet again ignored the Planning Commission’s recommendations, and the people’s recommendations and requests,” Sonck stated in an email to the News after the meeting.
“The Planning Commission will review the ordinance and will recommend updates to the New Board. The current ordinances do not protect the Health, Safety, Welfare, or property rights of the people of Bridgehampton Township.commend Kathy Kelly for her statement to the board. Alan Innes abstained due to his wind contract, which is the right thing to do.”
Haggerty could not be reached for comment.
Exelon has opposed the amendments, claiming the proposed setback of almost 2,000 feet, along with other changes, would be prohibitive to their plans for 50 turbines in the township.
Exelon spokesperson Kristen Otterness said the company now wants township to move ahead with its application for the wind farm.
“We salute the Bridgehampton Township Board for properly rejecting the Planning Commission’s restrictive and overreaching ordinance changes, which would have made it nearly impossible for wind generation to be developed in the township,” said Otterness.
“The rejected ordinance changes would have nullified any current or future wind investment opportunities and denied property owners and the township a share of the economic benefits. We wish for the township to now schedule a public hearing to review Exelon’s land use application, which is in full compliance with the township’s current land use ordinance.”
The Bridgehampton project is part of Exelon’s Michigan Wind 3 development, which calls for constructing a total of 68 turbines in Bridgehampton and neighboring Marion and Washington townships.
Washington has already adopted stricter wind ordinance rules that were opposed by Exelon. While in Marion, Exelon has been approved for 16 new turbines but plans for an additional 24, in an expanded wind district was turned down by voters in a referendum. Meanwhile, Marion officials are revising the township’s master plan that includes zoning for wind energy.
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