WORTH – Outcry from residents prompted the Town Council to table the pending approval of its proposed wind law Wednesday.
“The first 25 pages are B.S. There are a few good parts,” said Ronald King Sr.
Officials spent more than a year crafting a wind energy facilities law as developer Avangrid Renewables plans to build a portion of its Mad River Wind Farm in the town. The rest of its project would be located in Redfield, which adopted its wind law in December.
The board planned to approve the law Wednesday, but during a meeting that attracted more than 50 people to the town barn, several residents criticized the legislation, which they viewed as too restrictive for wind development, and urged the board to amend it before taking action.
Among those concerned about the regulations were two representatives from developer SWEB Development, Halifax, Nova Scotia, who expressed interest in erecting a utility-scale wind farm in the town that would be smaller than proposed industrial-scale projects.
While the board had plans to adopt the law and amend it afterward, Supervisor Judith A. Nichols said it will now make possible revisions beforehand after reviewing the recommendations and qualms from residents with the town’s attorney, David B. Geurtsen of Conboy, McKay, Bachman & Kendall LLP, and BCA Architects & Engineers, both of whom helped draft the law.
“We are here – period – for you people,” she said “I understand how people feel … we need to go back and write these things up.”
The proposed law limits turbine height for projects that would generate more than 100 kilowatts of electricity to 400 feet. Developers have to erect turbines and components away from property lines, structures and roads at a distance of five times their height.
Commercial wind farm turbines cannot emit noise louder than 35 A-weighted decibels, which equates to a ticking watch, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 25 A-weighted decibels, which equates to a relatively quiet office, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The law also includes regulations dictating traffic routes, lighting, safety, construction debris and solid waste cleanup and decommissioning.
Much of the regulations were driven by the board’s desire to protect the town’s resources like the Tug Hill Aquifer, creeks for fishing, woods and the scenic beauty, as well as prevent the possibility of declining property values or adverse effects from infrasound.
Several residents, including Mr. King, his son, Ronald King Jr.; Jessica Patrzyk and Norm Paradis said they believe the regulations are too prohibitive. They all said they supported wind farm development because they believed it could provide more revenue for the town and South Jefferson Central School District for upgrades to facilities, like the town barn, and other projects.
“They make it almost impossible for anybody to have windmills,” Ms. Patrzyk said.
Sarah Rosenblat, development manager for SWEB Development, said she was concerned about restrictive height, noise and setback regulations and extensive testing and complaint review requirements.
While the developer has no specific project for the town, Ms. Rosenblat said they began exploring the possibility of building one after engaging with intrigued residents. About 40 landowners expressed interest in a project, according to the developer. President Stuart Lawrie said if possible he would like to build a project that would allow landowners, neighbors and other community members to invest in it and earn revenue, similar to wind farm co-ops in Ontario, Canada.
“We’re a community-based group. That is completely what we’re about,” he said.
The board will meet again and discuss the wind law at 6 p.m. June 12 at the town barn, 24252 County Route 189.
In addition to having a legal notice published in the Watertown Daily Times, Mrs. Nichols said she plans to hang flyers providing information about the meeting at various locations in town. The board has also been working on a notice board for the town hall.
“We’re going to go through our law again before the next meeting and I will show them what we have done for changes,” she said.
Avangrid plans to build its 350-megawatt wind farm within a 20,000-acre plot of working forest it leased from WoodWise Land Co. The project will include 88 turbines and be connected to the Volney-Marcy 345 kilovolts transmission line.
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