Town of Hamlin adopts local law on wind

After a contentious meeting, the Town Board of Hamlin, a town in Monroe County on the southern shore of Lake Ontario (and northwest of Rochester), approved on April 24, 2008 a new local law that regulates the development of wind energy in the Town.

Minutes of the meeting show no fewer than nine “outbursts” from those opposed in some way to wind energy facilities in the town, as well as affirmations from the Town Supervisor that he is not in cahoots with wind developers. (Such charges are not unfamiliar to anyone involved in local politics; while not peculiar to wind developments, it is often a charge levied against town officials who favor wind development projects.) In Hamlin, one board member recused himself from the vote on the wind law, a smart move if he stands to gain in any way from any prospective wind development in the town.

Though the law passed (after a negative declaration under New York’s SEQRA), the anti-wind community has something to cheer. The new zoning law does not make it easy for a wind developer to enter Hamlin. While listing some advantages of wind power, the new law also calls wind facilities a “significant source of noise” and cites their supposed potential deleterious impact on property values, the damage their construction causes to roads, and their potential interference with radio, TV and other communications transmissions, among other things.

The law then goes on to restrict the creation of wind facilities to certain areas in the town, and imposes substantial financial requirements on the prospective developer. It even requires Town Board approval prior to certain transfers of ownership. The law provides that no turbine of a total height (ground to tip of blade at maximum vertical extension) exceeding 400 feet is permitted, and turbines must be set back 1200 feet from the nearest residence. Sound appears to be the law’s biggest, though by no means exclusive, concern, and periodic testing of sound emissions is required. Lest a developer think he or she can get a way with flouting the rules, jail time is contemplated for wind law scofflaws.

The law does set much less onerous requirements for siting meteorological (“met”) towers and small wind facilities (intended to help individuals or small entities or cooperatives get off the utility grid) of no greater than 100Kw capacity.

Thanks are due to Professor Patricia E. Salkin of Albany Law School, who maintains the comprehensive, informative Law of the Land land use and zoning blog and brought attention to this item in the blogosphere.

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