Two town councils with a tentative wind energy facility planned for construction in their backyards will hold public hearings this week to discuss their proposed regulations.
The Brownville Town Council will host a meeting on its proposed wind law at 7 p.m. today at the town office, 16431 Star School House Road. Town Planning Board officials and attorneys have been drafting the law since 2007, Town Supervisor Richard M. Lane said, adding that the town has no law to regulate wind energy development.
The Orleans Town Council will hold a meeting on changes proposed in its fourth amendment to the wind law, changes the board discussed and reworked since April 2016 when it passed its moratorium, at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Tabernacle at Thousand Island Park, Wellesley Island. The board adopted its first wind law in 2007 and replaced it in 2011.
“I think (the amendment is) a really good document. It just needs some tweaking,” Orleans Town Supervisor Kevin R. Rarick said. “A lot of people did their homework.”
Atlantic Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables, plans to build part of its 250-megawatt Horse Creek Wind Farm project, which will have 60 to 72 turbines, in both towns. The developer also plans to build parts of the project in the towns of Clayton and Lyme.
“In case we get an application (for any project), we want to be prepared for anything that might come along,” Mr. Lane said.
A few priorities that guided the Brownville Town Planning Board’s revisions include preventing unwanted noise and protecting the town’s aesthetics and sensitive areas, said Gary C. Beasley, Planning Board chairman.
The proposed law forbids any turbines taller than 600 feet and requires developers to set turbines back from site boundaries, village boundaries, schools, churches and major roads by either 2.5 times the height of the tower to the highest point of the blade or 1,500 feet, depending on “whichever is more.” Turbine noise must not exceed 45 A-weighted decibels, or low frequency sounds, during the day, 35 dBAs during the evening, 63 C-weighted decibels, or high-pressure sounds, during the day and 53 dBCs at night, according to the law.
The law does, however, allow developers to request a setback waiver from the Planning Board as long as the developer receives written permission from affected property owners to be filed with the Jefferson County clerk’s office. The easement is permanent and will not be revoked without town board consent, which may be granted when the developer completes or decommissions the facility or acquires the affected parcel, meaning homebuyers interested in purchasing the affected property could not challenge the waiver.
“It’s a buyer-beware issue,” Mr. Beasley said.
The goal to preserve the aesthetics and natural resources of Brownville led the Planning Board to include regulations that dictate the appearance of wind energy facilities and substations and the construction and placement of facility components to reduce soil and wildlife impacts, Mr. Beasley said. The law also requires transmission cables to be placed underground and 200 feet away from residences and, when possible, follow utility rights-of-way.
The Planning Board also included separate regulations for meteorological towers and smaller wind energy systems.
“The Planning Board’s happy with it. The town board’s happy with it,” Mr. Beasley said . “We’ll see whether the community is happy with it.”
The Jefferson County Planning Board disapproved the previous iteration of the Brownville wind law in August because of outdated regulations and confusing language.
The Brownville Town Council resubmitted the law with modifications and the county Planning Board reviewed it May 30. The county Planning Board did not take any formal action because not enough members were at the meeting, but Planning Director Michael J. Bourcy said board members still reviewed the law and sent back informal comments.
“The board is free to make its final decision,” Mr. Bourcy said.
The fourth amendment for Orleans’s wind law proposes to repeal several sections of the law and include expanded entries for definitions, noise regulations, complaint processes and studies.
In addition to establishing turbine noise limit of 45 dBAs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 35 dBAs from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the amendment includes a separate list of definitions for sound regulation, varying degrees of town response determined by the extent of the noise violation, outlines for submitting complaints and an outline for developers to complete noise compliance reports.
Mr. Rarick said the board also heard concerns about protecting property values and water quality, leading the board to include regulations that require both groundwater and property value analysis. The law also requires developers to submit studies including land use, safety, geology, ecology and visual impact analyses and plans for interconnection and decommissioning.
“The exhibits are just what they have to do anyway (for the Article 10 state law review process),” Mr. Rarick said.
The amendment also requires developers to set their turbines back by five times the rotor diameter from any structure, property line, public road or highway and from LaFargeville.
Mr. Rarick said the amendment “is a draft” and he expects board members to select which changes they want to keep before deciding whether to approve it. He also said he hopes the board will prevent any changes that would have the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment view the town’s wind law as unduly burdensome.
“I do not think we want to create such a document,” Mr. Rarick said.
Copies of the Brownville Town Council’s proposed law can be found at the town office. A file of the Orleans Town Council’s proposed amendment can be found on the town website.
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