CHATEAUGAY –– Dozens of residents came out to the Chateaugay Town Hall to attend a public hearing on possible changes to the wind law.
The public hearing lasted over an hour with residents asking a lot of questions, many still not sold on the idea of adding additional wind farms in the area.
Speakers at the hearing voiced concerns that have been raised previously about the effects wind turbines have on people’s health. They cited the noise generated by both the turbines and the blades that power them, as well as the flickering light created by the motion of the blades.
Former Burke Supervisor Albert Johnson, who ran in November on a platform opposing a similar wind law in his community, called wind towers a health hazard.
“The noise from the towers affects people’s health and it is not good for them,” said Johnson. “It can cause a lot of medical problems.”
Representatives from Renewable Energy Systems, whose request that the town change its wind law prompted the proposed amendments, were also at the meeting, saying that as wind tower technology evolves, the blades would become more sophisticated, resulting in less noise.
Despite RES’ assurances, some residents were not immediately sold on the idea and wondered why the company had to be looking at Chateaugay for its next project.
Town Board member Kirby Selkirk responded to those complaints, saying “there is no project for the area.” That did not do much to reduce residents’ skepticism about the effect of the changes.
The proposed amendments drew few supporters, with one resident saying the board should make changes to the wind laws before the state sets requirements that local officials will have no control over.
The amended law would permit towers of up to 725 feet tall. The current town law governing wind farm development, which was passed in 2006, limits the maximum height of a wind turbine tower to 500 feet. Selkirk, who is not an attorney, wrote up an amendment to the wind law that allows for additional height but imposes more stringent setback restrictions.
The amendment would require the towers to be 200% of the height of the tower or 1,320 feet from any “participating residence” - one in which the homeowner has agreed to allow a turbine tower to be erected on their property - whichever distance is greater. For nonparticipating residences, the towers would have to be 300% of their height or 1,320 feet from the home, again whichever is greater. Three hundred percent of a 725-foot tower’s height would equal 2,175 feet.
The setback requirements would apply to any residence, whether or not it is in the town of Chateaugay - a provision that would protect people living in neighboring towns who might be impacted by a project in Chateaugay.
Selkirk’s proposal would also set a minimum distance equal to 500% of a tower’s height or at least 1,320 feet from the property line of any school or nursing facility. The amendment would also require towers be set back at least 260% of their height from a church - excluding church-owned cemeteries - and 150% of the height from any existing structure not connected to the wind project or any existing above-ground utilities, unless an exemption is approved by the town.
The proposal also calls for a wind turbine tower to be at least 1,320 feet from U.S. Route 11, State Route 374 and Franklin County Route 52 and that the tower be more than 600 feet from all other public roads.
The proposed residential setback minimums are the same as those contained in New York state’s Article 10, which governs the construction of renewable energy projects that generate 25 megawatts of electricity or more.
The setback expansions were proposed in response to resident complaints about towers erected as part of the Jericho Rise Wind Farm project, which straddles the Chateaugay-Bellmont town line. Residents have complained about the noise the turbine blades generate and a flickering effect caused by the rotation of the blades that is noticeable even inside a house.
After the public hearing, no action on making changes the wind law was taken on the advice of attorney Brian Stewart.
“My recommendation is to table it because the folks from RES during the public hearing asked for the opportunity to submit a few documents,” said Stewart. “My advice to you is to wait a few weeks and review them. I know it may not be the preferred method in this case but haste makes waste in this case.”
The next Chateaugay Town Board meeting is Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.