Cohocton Wind Watch: Orleans wind panel urges stricter rules
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Orleans wind panel urges stricter rules

LAFARGEVILLE — The Orleans Wind Committee is calling on the Town Council to adopt stricter noise and setback regulations for wind power development.

The committee submitted the first part of its recommendations, covering noise and setbacks, to council members at the end of July and publicly during the council's meeting last week. The second part, including recommendations on stray voltage, fire risks, water and aquifer effects, turbine lighting, radon and security, are still being finalized. Co-chairman Stephen Bingeman said that should be done this fall.

The recommendations could imperil the eight wind turbines proposed in the town for the Horse Creek Wind Farm.

"While many of the suggested modifications to the local law may make the proposed Horse Creek wind facility impossible to implement fully, this committee believe the changes are necessary to protect the residents of our town," the recommendations said.

The recommendations, applicable to any wind-energy system over 100 kilowatts, include:

■ A preconstruction noise study for projects within one mile of a residence, public building or public park.

■ Turbine noise not to exceed 5 decibels above ambient noise level in both the audible and low-frequency noise ranges, tested at the property lines of nonparticipating parcels.

■ Average low-frequency noise not to exceed 20 decibels above the measured level of all audible background noise to avoid low-frequency annoyance.

■ An absolute limit of 50 decibels for low-frequency noise for properties one mile or farther from state highways or major roads or 55 decibels for properties within one mile of major roads.

■ An absolute limit of 35 decibels of audible noise in 10-minute averages, measured 100 feet from any occupied structure.

■ A post-construction noise study within one year after the project begins operation to check compliance with pre-construction models.

■ Setbacks of the greater of 3,000 feet or 10 times the diameter of the turbine's rotor from property lines or roads to protect from shadow flicker, ice throw and turbine collapse.

The recommendations make both noise levels and setbacks stricter than the current zoning law in the town. The current town law allows up to 50 decibels of audible noise and setbacks of 1,250 feet from homes.

The recommendations do not include specific setbacks from hamlets or the waterline of the St. Lawrence River, which had been a point of discussion at meetings.

"We truly believe that the noise levels will put it back from any property, including along the river," committee member Patty A. Booras-Miller said.

To check compliance with the zoning law, the committee recommended the council create a seven-member board to handle complaints of violations by the project. The council would send the complaints to the board. The board would have $100,000 available in an escrow account paid for by wind developers for consulting experts and would decide on mitigation measures and penalties if the turbine is found to be in violation.

"From what we had read, there were so many different areas where people said they had filed complaints and they could only go to the wind companies," co-chairwoman Judy E. Tubolino said. "And I thought, 'If we're going to do this, let's have real people that people can talk to that aren't wind people.'"

In the 81-page recommendation document, the committee provided reasoning for its recommendations. As a town document, the recommendations can be seen at the town office.

The committee also weighed in on the current wind overlay district, which allows wind development in just the western portion of the town, asking that the overlay district be expanded, moved or eliminated to open wind development to the entire town. In meetings, committee members had said that the small overlay district where wind energy development is allowed leads to crowding turbines into one part of the town.

"As long as the modifications we are suggesting are incorporated into our local law, residents will be protected regardless of what area of the town a wind facility is proposed," the recommendations said.

The council will host a work session with the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Wind Committee at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the municipal building, 20558 Sunrise Ave.

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