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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 16, 2009

Rensselaerville extending the wind moratorium?

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — The wind-study committee, formed this past winter to make zoning recommendations to the town board for energy-producing wind turbines, says it needs more time. Next month, a public hearing will be held on extending the town’s wind-power moratorium, set to expire in June.

At last week’s meeting, the town board voted to schedule a public hearing for 7 p.m. on May 14, at which the board will entertain a two-pronged moratorium extension: non-commercial windmills would be banned for an additional three months, while large-scale, industrial turbines would be banned for another year. With both types, the committee will be looking at how other towns have handled windmill zoning.

The wind-study committee will also hold an informational meeting at town hall on Tuesday, May 5, at 7 p.m.

“As we’ve begun to research the issue of wind, we’ve realized that it’s such a complex issue that we really need more time, especially with large-scale wind,” said Noel Abbott, head of the wind-study committee. “We’ve looked at other towns that have done a thorough job,” he said, making reference to Knox’s Helderberg Community Wind project, which plans to put three 1.5-megawatt wind turbines on Middle Road, and has been in the works for two and a half years.

“The timing of the moratorium was necessary, but unfortunate,” Abbott continued, referring to Shell WindEnergy’s failed attempts to site commercial turbines on the crest of the Helderbergs. “Shell withdrew, and our town board acted very quickly in November to enact a moratorium, which went into effect in December. But, by the time our committee was assembled, it was already February, and we effectively had about three-and-a-half months of working time before it expires June 3.”

Residential wind is a “far less complex issue,” Abbott said, and, in the event that there are town residents who want to put up smaller windmills on their own properties, “We’re wanting to facilitate that process,” he said.

“By splitting the two time periods, what we can then do is focus our committee resources for the next two or three months primarily on getting the non-commercial recommendations done,” said Abbott.

As the moratorium is currently set to expire on June 3, the last day of the extended ban on small-scale windmills would be Sept. 3. Abbott has set a rough timeline for the work to come before the committee makes its recommendations to the town board on small-scale-wind zoning.

“We need to make our final recommendations to the town board by the July 9 town board meeting,” Abbott said. “They then need to discuss those recommendations, hold a public hearing, and then vote at the August town board meeting. Once they make their final vote, whatever they approve needs to be filed with the state. And, if we’ve done our work, and we’ve done it right, people will be able to put up their own residential wind generators by this fall.”

From then on, the committee will focus its efforts on zoning recommendations for large-scale-wind development, should there be a need for such zoning in the future.

Other business

In other business at its April 9 meeting, the town board:

— Awarded bids to Main-Care Energy for fuel oil and diesel, and to Gorman Asphalt, Cobleskill Stone, Callahan Industries, and Carver Sand and Gravel for highway materials;

— Announced that the town received a $15,000 grant from state Senator Neil Breslin to purchase a minivan, replacing the town’s 12-passenger van. “We were looking for something more economical, and the van needs a lot of work,” Town Clerk Kathy Hallenbeck said. “It’s used mostly trips to the doctor”;

— Agreed to purchase its two water coolers, currently being rented for town-hall use, for $90 each. Rental currently costs the town about $275 a year; and

— Renewed its contract with CornerStone Telephone, noting that the town will save $125 a month because of new rates.

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