WATERTOWN – The Jefferson County Planning Board approved a proposed zoning amendment from the Clayton Town Council that would prevent commercial wind development within town boundaries.
Amendment 40, which would regulate the application process, height and setbacks for structures taller than 35 feet including wind turbines, telecommunication towers, silos, church steeples and amusement park rides, was approved with additional comments in a 7-1 vote. The amendment would require anyone wanting to build a “tall structure” to obtain a special permit from the Joint Town and Village Planning Board and an area variance from the Joint Zoning Board of Appeals for structures taller than 250 feet.
The amendment, if passed by the Town Board, would allow property owners to have wind energy facilities for their own energy consumption and to offset expenses, according to the amendment’s use-specific regulations, but wind energy facilities used “primarily” for selling electricity to the grid would be prohibited.
“That’s something they wish to have as a zoning (regulation),” said David W. Prosser, County Planning Board chairman, adding that the board felt the amendment “was acceptable and what they’re proposing is good.”
Art F. Baderman, the only County Planning Board member who opposed the amendment, said he felt its creation was only driven by the interest of a few residents.
“They’re so anti-wind that it’s not really a decision for the whole town,” he said.
County Planning Board member Clifford P. Schneider said preventing commercial wind development and regulating structures taller than 35 feet follows the town’s goals, such as promoting tourism, set aside in the comprehensive plan. Both the Town Board and the Village Board of Trustees adopted their new comprehensive plan in February.
“They’ve gone through great lengths to understand what their people want in their community,” he said. “They’re trying to do the best job they can.”
While the County Planning Board approved the amendment, its members requested clarification on certain items.
The County Planning Board’s comments for the Town Council include creating separate definitions for a building, which is included in the existing zoning ordinance, and a structure, to create a definition for wind energy facility that would differentiate between turbines used for on-site production and turbines primarily for selling energy to the grid, and have the state Department of Agriculture and Markets review regulations pertaining to review agricultural structures, which are exempt from review in the existing ordinance.
“They need to be as clear as they can be,” said Jefferson County Planning Board Senior Planner Andrew R. Nevin. “Some tweaks on that will help move it forward.”
Under the amendment, tall structures with no moving parts would need to be set back from the property line by one-and-a-half times their height, while structures with moving parts larger than one meter would have to be set back five-and-a-half times their height.
Structures with moving parts larger than one meter would also not be permitted within four miles of the high mark of the St. Lawrence River, which includes the French Creek Basin, or within 2,000 feet of the hamlet residential district or the Chaumont River Corridor Waterfront Revitalization area, which would replace the Wind Energy Facility Overlay District in the ordinance.
The County Planning Board also decided that Charles G. Caprara’s plan for a proposed exotic car and high line truck dealership at the dilapidated former Pontiac and Subaru dealership on Route 11 was a matter of local concern only.
Mr. Caprara plans to renovate the interior and exterior of the building at 19138 Route 11, which he purchased from Bill Rapp, and sell previously owned Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jeep Wrangler vehicles. The town of Watertown received a $500,000 Restore NY grant for Mr. Caprara to restore the building.
The County Planning Board commented that the Watertown Town Planning Board should consider the need for pedestrian access to the adjacent Subway and whether Mr. Caprara’s landscaping will provide enough of a buffer between the dealership and nearby residents.
“We’ve long waited for this to happen,” Mr. Nevin said.
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