Town Board Calls for Hearing on Draft Law on Wind Turbines

Also makes yearly appointments, honors Scouts

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Two years after plans to install a residential wind turbine in Garrison provoked a major controversy, Philipstown residents favoring or opposing such backyard “windmills” will get a fresh chance to voice their opinions when the Town Board convenes a public hearing Jan. 28.

At its formal monthly meeting Thursday night (Jan. 8), the Philipstown Town Board scheduled the hearing on a proposed new law designed to cover small-scale, power-generating turbines. Under the draft law, intended as an amendment to the zoning code adopted in 2011, each wind turbine would require a minimum lot area of one acre, and only one per lot would be permitted.

The board’s action is the latest development in a series that began in 2012 with the application for the wind turbine at a Garrison residence — an idea that sparked intense public interest. The Philipstown Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) eventually approved the Garrison project, but the protracted debate before both the ZBA and Town Board and the realization that town law did not adequately address such matters prompted the Town Board in November 2013 to declare a moratorium on further wind turbines and to research ways to regulate them.

The result is the proposed law “to better regulate the construction and use of wind energy conversion systems” — the long name for wind turbines. However, more briefly, it also discusses aspects of solar energy systems.

As provided in the draft law, along with meeting the acreage rule, wind turbines could not exceed 40 feet in height. Likewise, the draft mandates that such “accessory uses” comply with other town rules and “not create noise, traffic, dust, odor, or other impacts that exceed those normally associated with single-family residential uses.”

Furthermore, according to the draft law:

  • The wind turbine must be screened “to the greatest extent practicable” by use of non-reflective paint, planting and maintaining natural landscaping “at property boundary areas where feasible,” or similar means.
  • No lighting could be installed on the device.
  • A turbine must be set back from all lot boundaries a minimum distance equivalent to the total tower height plus 10 additional feet.
  • A locked fence must be placed around any turbine not incorporated into another legal structure that provides the equivalent safety protection.

In addition, the draft demands that if a wind energy conversion system or a solar energy facility is intended to generate electricity primarily for off-site consumption, rather than home use, its sponsors must obtain a special permit from the town Zoning Board of Appeals.

Given copies of the draft law to review last November, both the Philipstown Planning Board and the Putnam County Department of Planning, Development and Public Transportation found the draft acceptable and suggested no changes.

Officials, lawyers and newspapers

Scheduling the public hearing was one item on a long list of decisions by the board as it completed tasks in separate back-to-back meetings Thursday night.

During the first meeting, the annual pro forma reorganization session, by unanimous votes the board:

  • reappointed such key officials as Kevin Donohue, the code administrator/flood plain administrator/fire marshal, and David Klotzle, the natural resources review officer/wetlands inspector
  • again selected M&T Bank as its official depository
  • set a compensation of 40 cents per mile for use of personal vehicles while engaging in town government business
  • once more tapped Robert Dee, Eric Lind and Anthony Merante to chair the ZBA, Conservation Board and Planning Board, respectively (with Lind again listed as interim chairperson)
  • named Supervisor Richard Shea as town budget officer, preparing the annual budget and otherwise managing town finances

The board also continued its practice, begun in 2014, of picking not one but two print newspapers for disseminating town announcements. It designated The Putnam County News and Recorder as the “paper of record” but also specified that “simultaneously all legal notices and similar item of information will be sent to Paper.” New York state law demands that a municipality publish legal notices in a newspaper with a paid circulation (one whose readers buy a subscription); the PCNR meets that criterion. By contrast, The Paper is distributed free of charge.

For legal advice, the board reappointed the firm of Drake, Loeb, Heller, Kennedy, Fogerty, Gaba and Rodd and specifically mentioned attorneys James Loeb, Stephen J. Gaba and Adam L. Rodd. Likewise, for certain tax litigation cases, the board named Robert Cinque as its lawyer.

Shea again made Councilor Nancy Montgomery his deputy supervisor. Town Clerk Tina Merando named Joan Clauss and Theresa Crawley as deputy town clerks and deputy tax collectors and made Clauss deputy registrar and Crawley sub-registrar.

Town historian

The board also chose a new face for an “old” duty — serving as the town’s official historian. Board members named town resident Mark Forlow to succeed Donald MacDonald, who had long held the position, as historian. “No one could oppose Mark Forlow. He’s great!” Shea pronounced, before the vote. At its Jan. 13 meeting, the Village Board also appointed Forlow as village historian.

Forlow coauthored the paperback West Point Foundry, a recent title in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, featuring detailed photographs of the foundry and accompanying historical narrative.

Boy Scout honors

During its formal monthly meeting, along with scheduling a hearing on the wind turbine law, the board passed resolutions honoring Robert Dean and Steven Casement, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts’ highest award. They both provided community service to the town. Dean built permanent wooden and concrete benches along the walking trail around Quarry Pond at the North Highlands town park. Casement established a sporting gear and wear “swap room” at the town Recreation Department’s community center in Garrison, allowing families to exchange such things as baseball bats or hockey and lacrosse equipment.

PTown Bd-scouts-1

Eagle Scouts Robert Dean, left, and Steven Casement, center, with Supervisor Richard Shea (photo by L.S. Armstrong)

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