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Bridgehampton Township proposes wind zoning — again

BRIDGEHAMPTON TWP. – Tighter rules for wind energy systems are again recommended by the township planning commission.

The Bridgehampton Township Planning Commission’s action Dec. 13 followed approval of a six-month moratorium on wind energy developments by the new township board in November.

Bridgehampton is among several townships with moratoriums in place as changes in wind energy zoning are being addressed.

The Bridgehampton board, led by new supervisor and former planning commission chairman, Leo Sonck, is not as wind friendly as the previous board which rejected proposals for longer wind turbine setbacks from non-participating properties that were opposed by wind energy developer Exelon.

The previous board’s vote to deny changes in the wind zoning ordinance came in October, a month before the November election when new board members took office.

The zoning changes approved by the planning commission last week are similar to those passed when Sonck was chairman and then nixed by the board in October. In addition to lengthening setbacks from the current 500 feet to 1,996 feet, or four times the tip height (499 feet) of wind turbines, the changes address residents’ concerns about shadow flicker and sound pressure from wind turbines.

The amended ordinance now goes to the county planning commission in January before being sent to the township board for a vote, said Sonck.

The moratorium on wind energy projects passed by the new board Nov. 22 will remain in effect for six months “or until the ordinance is approved and adopted,” said Sonck.

In neighboring Marion Township, where Exelon also wants to construct more wind parks, a 12-month moratorium was approved by the township board Nov. 21.

The Marion board also directed the planning commission “to review and revise our ordinance to better protect the health, safety and wellbeing of those living in Marion Township,” said township board member Jon Block.

The moratorium effects new applications for wind turbines but does not over the 16 turbine projects already approved, Block said.

The Marion Zoning Board of Appeals, meanwhile, has offered an opinion that Exelon’s special land use permit to construct 24 turbines in the wind overlay district rejected by voters in a referendum “was not appropriate and cannot be used,” Block said.

In other developments, a revised wind energy ordinance for Moore Township is also on its way to the county planning commission.

The Moore planning commission took about a year to re-write the ordinance after the old one was turned down by voters in a November 2015 referendum.

The proposed ordinance more than doubles wind turbine setbacks from non-participating property lines compared to the previous ordinance that was approved by the township board and then rejected by voters. The old ordinance called for a 750-foot setback, while the proposed setback is 1,750 feet.

Following a review by the county planning commission, the proposed ordinance will go to the township board for consideration.

Township Supervisor Greg Dorman has expressed concerns the setbacks would “be too restrictive” for wind energy developers.

In Argyle Township, where a moratorium is in place on wind energy projects, the planning commission has also sent a proposed ordinance to the county for review.

The proposed ordinance that would replace one rejected by voters in a referendum calls for wind turbine setbacks of 1,650 feet from residences and 1,320 feet from non-participating properties, and addresses decibel and shadow flicker issues, said Ed Bezemek, planning commission chairman.

The referendums in Argyle and Moore townships, as well as in Wheatland Township, have delayed wind farm developments by wind energy company Invenergy.