Wind plan ruffles some in town

Neighbors question dual turbine proposal

ANCRAM–What would happen if one or both of the two proposed wind turbines fell down, why two turbines are sought and how they will look when they are up were among the questions and concerns aired at a public hearing conducted by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Tuesday night, May 11.

Michael Gershon of 143 Carson Road seeks a special use permit to erect two 111-foot wind turbines on his three-acre property on Winchell Mountain in the southeast corner of the town, where the winds are legendary.

Mr. Gershon’s initial site plan for the two turbines, one to power his house, the other his garage, did not meet setback requirements and therefore also required an area variance. But he has since revised the plan to meet required setbacks from property lines by moving the turbine locations. He also shortened the turbine heights from 130-feet to 111-feet each.

The turbines would be situated about 400 feet apart, and the height of the towers would be 100 feet with 11-foot-long blades. They will be the first wind turbines in Ancram. Another wind turbine already exists on Winchell Mountain–just across the line in Dutchess County. The two proposed turbines will look just like it, but be about 20 feet shorter.

Ancram adopted its Comprehensive Plan in April and a Zoning Revisions Committee is in the process of rewriting the town’s zoning ordinance to comply with the new comp plan. Renewable energy sources are supported in the plan.

But right now the town has no law on the books to deal with wind turbines.

The applicant appealed the building inspector’s denial of permits to erect the turbines and now seeks a special use permit from the ZBA.

One of the towers will only be 140 feet from Mr. Gershon’s house. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the agency that provides renewable energy incentives to help fund such projects, requires a 300-foot distance from any human-occupied structure. Mr. Gershon has written a letter waiving that distance requirement.

While the wind turbines are 60 feet from the road, exceeding the 50-foot front yard setback currently in place for structures, the Town Board wants the applicant to provide a written agreement holding the town harmless should either turbine fall across the road. As part of the agreement with Mr. Gershon and as a condition for issuance of the permit the town will also require that he be responsible for getting a fallen turbine out of the town road and get the road reopened to traffic within four hours. If he fails to do that, then he must agree to pay the town whatever costs it incurs in the cleanup.

ZBA member Sheldon Waldorf noted that agreement must be a part of a deed restriction that goes with the land.

Among the permit conditions contemplated by the ZBA are:

*That Mr. Gershon has to remove one or both turbines within 90 days should they be abandoned or their use discontinued

*That no banners or signs may be posted on the towers

*That all inspection or service reports regarding the turbines will be forwarded to the town building inspector

*That the applicant will provide the building inspector reasonable access to the turbines when asked.

ZBA member Fred Schneeberger asked, “Who’s to say when [the turbines are] no longer in use?”

Warren Replansky, the ZBA’s attorney, said that the building inspector/zoning enforcement officer may not always know, that it may be brought to his attention by a neighbor and that he may then have to inspect the turbine to determine if it’s operable.

The town and county planning boards also reviewed the Gershon application, and among their comments were concerns over unauthorized climbing, said ZBA Chair Leah Wilcox.

Short of fencing in the turbines , there is no way to keep out someone intent on climbing the turbine, according to Greta Barlow and Doug Passeri, representatives of Hudson Valley Wind Energy, the company that deals in the Bergey turbines that Mr. Gershon hopes to buy. Ms. Barlow and Mr. Passeri were at the hearing representing the applicant.

Mr. Schneeberger said unauthorized climbing of the turbines should not be a worry because “kids nowadays don’t have enough ambition to do that. You can’t even get them out of the house.”

Noise is another matter of little concern as the turbines emit a sound that registers about 50 decibels, like the hum of a refrigerator, said Ms. Barlow.

Ms. Wilcox said she paid a visit to the existing turbine on the mountain and from inside her car at a distance of 150 feet away, she found the sound to be like that of a playing card stuck in the spokes of a spinning bicycle wheel.

She said she could not hear the turbine at all when she stood outside her car because the wind itself was so loud.

Flicker, the reflection of light off the spinning blades of a turbine, was also discounted as a concern because of the latitude in the U.S.

But neighbors of the proposed turbines did have concerns.

Jane Meigs thought the three-acre Gershon property is too small to support two wind turbines in a residential area.

Mr. Passeri said that NYSERDA guidelines allow up to three turbines per acre. He explained that Mr. Gershon is only allowed to produce 10% more than the amount of energy he uses during the course of a year. Any power generated by the turbines goes to the power company and Mr. Gershon is compensated on his electric bill.

Ms. Meigs said she believed that the board was setting a precedent for future wind development and should consider what is a reasonable density of turbines, since others in the area may also want to erect turbines because of the wind resource on the mountain.

Jonathan Meigs had concerns about the turbines falling on neighboring properties and disputed the idea that there is no flicker at this latitude. He also noted that while the sound emitted by the turbines is not loud it is continuous and may be an irritant.

Donna Hoyt wanted to know if a balloon test could be conducted to let neighbors see the height the proposed towers would rise. Other neighbors agreed that they wanted to see something, even a computer simulation, of how the towers will impact the area visually.

Joe Crocco, another neighbor, wanted to know why Mr. Gershon didn’t just buy one bigger tower rather than two smaller towers. Mr. Passeri said that Bergey does not yet offer a larger model. Mr. Crocco pointed out that if Mr. Gershon went to a dealer of a different brand he could get a bigger model.

Daniel Bloch said that the towers will “look ugly,” impede the view and cause property values to sink.

Mr. Passeri said that there is no evidence of plummeting property values associated with turbines. He also said when people see them they think they are in a “healthy neighborhood.”

Chairwoman Wilcox adjourned the public hearing but did not close it, allowing and encouraging written comments about the application until June 15, the date of the next ZBA meeting.

During the completion of the State Environmental Quality Review form, the board found that the turbines would cause no significant environmental impacts.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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