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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 21, 2009

Rensselaerville extends moratorium on wind power

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — Wind-power developers will be held at bay for another year as the Rensselaerville Wind-Study Committee continues its research. At its May 14 meeting, the town board voted unanimously to extend the moratorium on the construction of windmills in town.

The wind-study committee was formed this past winter after failed attempts by Shell WindEnergy to line the crest of the Helderbergs with massive wind turbines. The committee has been charged with making zoning recommendations to the town board for energy-producing wind turbines, and asked at last month’s town board meeting for a two-pronged extension on the moratorium that was set to expire in June.

After a brief public hearing, the ban on smaller-scale, non-commercial wind sites was extended three months, through Sept. 3 of this year, while the ban on industrial wind-energy sites has been extended through June 3, 2010.

“As we’ve been doing our research, we’ve realized that wind is a very complex issue, and that we really need more time, especially with large-scale wind,” said Noel Abbott, head of the wind-study committee.

On Thursday, July 9, the wind-study committee will make its final recommendations to the town board for non-commercial wind power at the monthly town board meeting.

“We’ve made it clear to the committee that we need to have proposed regulations within two months from now,” Town Attorney Joseph Catalano said at last week’s meeting, “so that the zoning committee can review what they recommend and make sure it’s OK, and so we could adopt something within that three-month time frame.”

The committee’s recommendations, if approved, will function as a zoning law, and will be adopted separately as an amendment to the existing law, Catalano said.

“The idea is not to discourage the commercial type of uses, but to balance that with neighbors’ considerations,” and to do so before potentially available stimulus money runs out, he said.

Catalano made the point that the smaller-scale wind zoning needs to be dealt with first, and soon, so that the wind-study committee can move onto the larger issue of commercial-wind development in town.

“We still needed more time, even on the residential,” Abbott said yesterday. “A part of splitting the moratorium is that we believed that the residential was less complex. But it’s turning out to be more complex than we thought, though we will absolutely meet our timelines, and our committee is on target to do that. We also felt that the learning curve that we’d been going through in the non-commercial would basically set a foundation for our work in the commercial.”

Abbott emphasized the point that the “non-commercial” label includes “any wind installation that specifically serves the property on which it sits.” He went on, “Those installations include residential, farms, small business, non-profit, and even the town of Rensselaerville. If the town decided that it wanted to put up a wind installation on the field next to the town hall, to serve the town hall and the adjacent ambulance corps, that would still fall under non-commercial. The Rensselaerville Institute and Huyck Preserve would fall under non-commercial, though the scale of those would be much different than those for a residential installation.”

At the June 11 town board meeting, Abbott said, the committee will address the board with specific research that has been done.

“We’re going to begin to give the town board a sense of what’s going on, so that they’re not surprised on July 9,” he said.

He went on to specify what questions the research will look to answer: “What is maximum tower height? What are the appropriate setbacks, and from where? From property liens? From residents? Given the noise issues with residents, what types of setbacks do we want to establish for noise? What guidance do we want to give the board on viewshed issues? How do we handle, for example, the requirements for a property owner in terms of decommissioning? Let’s say they decided they don’t want their turbine. Is it going to sit and rot, or are we going to remove it?”

The committee will meet with the planning board for a second time on Thursday, June 18, to bring the planning board up to speed on the committee’s work. The two groups will meet for a third time on July 2, if it is deemed necessary, Abbott said.

“And then,” Abbott concluded, “at the August town board meeting, they can approve our [zoning recommendations], and it will be filed with New York State as a local law before the moratorium expires in September.”

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