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Bellmont officials exploring increased restrictions on wind towers

BRAINARDSVILLE – Bellmont officials are looking at revising current town law governing wind turbines that would require greater setbacks from roads and residential properties.

Supervisor H. Bruce Russell also proposed that the town reduce the maximum amount of noise the wind towers are permitted to generate.

The proposals come as a result of the town’s experience with the Jericho Rise Farm, which began generating power nearly one year ago. Since that time, town officials have received complaints about the amount of noise the towers create, although Russell noted that no new complaints had been filed during the month of September.

Town law currently requires that wind towers be located at least 1,000 from a residence and 500 feet from any public road. Russell initially proposed increasing those setbacks to 2,500 feet and 1,000 feet, respectively.

The current law also sets a limit on the amount of noise generated by the towers at 50 decibels. Russell’s proposal would reduce that limit to 40 decibels.

During Monday’s Town Board meeting, Councilman Wayne Rogers questioned if the proposed limits would be sufficient to address the complaints the board has received about the towers. He said he recently visited a home that is approximately 3,400 feet from the nearest tower, and that the noise was still audible – and annoying.

As the leaves fall, the amount of insulation they create will drop, meaning the noise from the towers will carry even farther and seem even louder, he added.

After some discussion among Town Board members, Russell said he would like to explore using some sort of “multiplier” calculation that would tie the setback distance to the height of the tower. The Jericho Rise towers are approximately 500 feet tall, and a 2,500-foot setback might work for them, but some developers are proposing towers 700 or 800 feet tall, which would require greater setbacks to offset the noise, he said.

“I think we’ve got to be thinking about how far back we’ve got to be,” Russell said.

“Id really like to make sure we get the numbers right,” he said.

The supervisor also said the stricter requirements might serve to discourage potential developers from pursuing a variance from the town’s ordinance. “If it’s discouraging for that firm, let them go and develop a better product,” he said.

Town Board members did not settle on new setback or noise limit figures Monday, but those present supported the idea of looking into further restrictions on the towers. Once the board members agree on new limits, the changes would be given to the town’s attorney for wind tower development, who would draft the modified local law. When that was done, the board would hold a public hearing on the proposed changes.

“The worst thing we can do is repeat what we’ve got here now,’ Rogers said.

Russell acknowledged that no developer has approached the town about another wind farm project. Projects have been proposed for the neighboring town of Chateaugay and in the Churubusco area of Clinton County.