CAPE VINCENT – Disconcerted residents stood in front of their peers and opposed draft revisions to the town’s zoning ordinance that would ease regulations on small wind turbines Thursday.
The Town Council’s public hearing for proposed zoning amendments drew a crowd of about 30 people. While planning officials have penned several changes to the law in the past year, alterations pertaining to wind energy dominated the conversation.
“I think this takes us a step backwards,” said Jerome LaLonde.
Tentative regulatory changes for small wind energy conversion systems, ranging from less than 10 kilowatts to up to 60 kilowatts, includes eliminating the special use permit requirement, meaning users only need site plan approvals, and the need for a visual impact assessment.
Wind turbines less than 10 kilowatts would be allowed in all districts except the municipal district. Turbines between 10 and 60 kilowatts can only be erected in the agricultural residential, island and riverfront districts via site plan approval, and turbines on Route 12E in the riverfront district cannot must be built within 1,000 feet from the road.
Town Planning Board member Richard H. Macsherry said some farmers have requested the planning board consider less stringent regulations governing small wind turbines so they have the option to install them.
“All restrictions on commercial, industrial wind farms remain,” he said. “The wind overlay district is still there.”
Resident Michelle T. Oswald said she feared the new regulations would allow anyone to construct turbines anywhere across the districts, being built “on house, after house, after house.” Mr. Macsherry said the state Energy Research and Development Authority limits who can build turbines at what size based on need, meaning homes requiring 10 to 15 kilowatt systems for up to 110 percent of their use cannot build 60 kilowatt turbines.
“What I don’t like is that you’re not letting the (zoning board of appeals) look at these as a special use,” Mrs. Oswald said. “I find that not good,”
A few residents said the town board should wait until seasonal residents return before enacting any changes. Mr. LaLonde and his wife, Patty, brought seven letters from seasonal residents expressing concerns, including one from Laura Teuchtler, which Mr. LaLonde read aloud.
“Because of distance and holiday scheduling, concerned seasonal taxpayers, who pay the majority of the Cape Vincent taxes, are being deprived of adequate public voice at this time,” Mr. LaLonde said while reading the letter, adding that the discussion should be tabled until summer.
Following the requests made by taxpayers, the zoning revisions were later published on the town’s website.
Mr. MacSherry said he hopes the town board will adopt an amended zoning ordinance in the spring, although the planning board has yet to finish its revisions. County planning officials have aided town planners with their draft, but the County Planning Board still needs to review it.
“If everyone in this room would like, they can come to the next planning board meeting,” Mr. Macsherry said. The board meets monthly at 7 p.m. on every second Wednesday at Recreation Park, 602 S. James St. “We’d be glad to field every question everyone has here.”
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