Sound raises fury in Ancram

ANCRAM–The town gave special use permits for wind turbines on Carson Road and now aims to take them away.
At the February 21 Town Board meeting, the board voted to begin the process of revoking the permits based on misrepresentations about how much noise they make.

According to Supervisor Art Bassin, applicants and their representatives presented information and literature that claimed the turbines were “extremely quiet and almost silent.” Yet since last August neighbors of the wind turbines owned by Michael Gershon and Joseph Crocco, both along Carson Road on Winchell Mountain, have come to the Town Board with complaints of noise ranging from a foghorn to a hovering helicopter that jars them from their sleep and causes their windows to rattle. The volume of noise is related to how fast the wind is blowing, neighbors have said.

Both the wind turbine dealer and the manufacturer dispute the claims. Mike Bergey, co-founder of Bergey WindPower, which makes the machines, calls the issue, “a tempest in a teapot.”
Provisions of special use permits say they may be revoked for failure to disclose material facts, noted Mr. Bassin, who said in a phone interview this week that during a 2010 public hearing on the Crocco application statements were made indicating that noise was not an issue and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) had lifted its requirement that the devices be set back 300 feet from homes. The turbines emit 54 decibels, equivalent to the sound of a refrigerator, according to the minutes.
Mr. Crocco, who was present at the meeting said that the “almost silent” description mentioned by Mr. Bassin was only part of the information contained in the literature and that a specific 54.7 decibel figure was also given.
Mr. Crocco and his wife, Barbara, own and operate Copper Star Alpaca Farm on Carson Road, where they currently have 51 of the animals.
In a phone interview, Mr. Crocco said his 120-foot-high wind turbine powers the entire farm, saving him about $1,300 or half of his annual energy costs.
Though he noted his interest in working with the town at the meeting, Mr. Crocco also said that he had connected with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets about the issue. Currently in the process of supplying the department with information, Mr. Crocco said he believes that his standing as a farm would lead the department to rule that the town’s requirements were “unreasonably restrictive” and as an agricultural operation he would not be subject to them. “A turbine is like a piece of farm equipment,” he said, adding he did not want to see the town “go through the expense of decommissioning [the turbine] because I think it’s going to stay.”
Mr. Crocco also noted he has additional options of seeking an opinion on the issue from the Zoning Board of Appeals or filing a court action. “That is not the approach I want to take, it would be a last resort,” he said over the phone. The reason the turbine was installed was “to reduce our carbon footprint through green energy, we did not intend to disturb the neighbors,” said Mr. Crocco.
Doug Passeri of Hudson Valley Wind Energy in Gallatin, who sold and installed the turbines, told The Columbia Paper this week, that “if you take the wind turbines out of the equation what you have are neighbors that do not get along.” The turbines give the neighbors something to blame when they get a bad night’s sleep, said Mr. Passeri. The plan for the turbines, he said, went through the entire permitting, inspection and grant processes and met every town and state guideline including those for noise levels. No one has ever recorded sounds made by the turbines that exceed noise levels, he said. New York State certification of the turbines, done by a third party agency, certifies the machines for winds up to 32 mph, everything over that is considered “extreme weather and no rules apply,” said Mr. Passeri.
Hudson Valley Energy also installed a third turbine on Sawchuck Road, also on Winchell Mountain and about 300 yards away from the others, and two more exist on the Pulver farm just across the line in Dutchess County, none of which have been the subject of neighborhood ire.
“Why are all the complaints about … [Gershon’s and Crocco’s turbines] and why now, two years after they were installed?” asked Mr. Passeri.
Bergey WindPower co-founder Mike Bergey, who, with his father, started the Norman, OK, company in 1977, told The Columbia Paper that not only had no noise ordinance violation ever been found, but also that noise problems are “easily exaggerated” and he found the allegations “on the silly side.”
While he appreciates Supervisor Bassin doing the bidding of the neighbors, Mr. Bergey said the noise has been misrepresented and that certification data, including acoustic noise testing to national standards done by a third party proves it. “It’s not us saying it, it’s independent certification bodies. If Mr. Bassin ignores that he’s not exactly making a substantive, fair judgment.”
Mr. Bergey said his company even provided a sound meter to the neighbors through Hudson Valley Wind Energy. He said they spent months trying to get a reading and finally stood in the driveway during a storm and got a 70 decibel reading which included background noise from the wind and trees.
Mr. Bassin said by phone that the revocation process will begin with asking the turbine owners to voluntarily shut them down. Otherwise there will be a public hearing, followed by building inspector notification that they are not in compliance with an injunction.
“Either they will agree and reapply, this time disclosing the noise issue or we’ll do it the hard way,” said the supervisor.
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