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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 2, 2009

Knox is ready to draft law on large-scale wind development

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — After much research, the town’s planning board is about ready to start drafting an ordinance on large-scale wind development.

Daniel Driscoll, a certified sound engineer on the Knox Planning Board, told The Enterprise this week that a law specifically regulating large-scale wind turbines in town is on the horizon.

Towns in Albany County have been looking to refine their zoning ordinances for protection from companies like Shell WindEnergy, which approached landowners last fall, behind the backs of their respective town governments, looking to line the crest of the Helderbergs with 50 wind turbines, each hundreds of feet tall.

While Knox’s zoning ordinance bans all towers, Resolution 89, adopted in 2006, allowed for the construction of meteorological towers, no taller than 180 feet, and windmills, no taller than 125 feet, and not producing more than 10 kilowatts of power, Driscoll said, though the construction of either still requires a building permit.

“We’ve been studying all different types of industrial-scale wind turbines, and we’re to a point now where, at the next meeting, I think we’ll decide what sort of ordinance to adopt,” Driscoll said this week. “I expect it’ll take us at least several months to draft the ordinance, and we’ll borrow heavily from other communities.”

The planning board’s next meeting will take place Thursday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

At the June town board meeting, Amy Pokorny made a presentation on behalf of Helderberg Community Energy, asking that the town board direct the planning board to create an ordinance that would regulate large-scale wind turbines. Pokorny, a wind-power proponent, lives in an entirely off-the-grid home on Beebe Road with her husband, Knox Assessor Russ Pokorny.

Helderberg Community Energy has had a small-scale community wind project in the works for two years. It plans to place three 1.5-megawatt wind turbines along Middle Road, back from roads and away from houses.

Pokorny spoke at the June meeting about Article 10, a piece of legislation that will allow for state control over placement of wind-energy projects.

“If we take the initiative and write a law to promote responsible wind development under local control, there may be no need for state-controlled development in Knox,” she said. “The threat of state government, federal government, and giant corporations using clean-energy initiatives to ignore local concerns is realistic,” she said later, adding, “A carefully thought out local plan that is supported by the community and that also can overcome challenges by outsiders hoping to take control of our resources is important if Knox wants to control its own destiny.”

Pokorny also emphasized the importance of creating a set of guidelines that addresses concerns that are unique to Knox.

At the same meeting, the town board discussed with Planning Board Chairman Robert Price its difficulty in obtaining the wind data generated by the meteorological tower for use in the Helderberg Wind Project, which plans to place three 1.5-megawatt wind turbines along Middle Road, questioning who owns the data, and why the town has seen only two out of the expected 18 monthly reports.

Loren Pruskowski of Helderberg Community Energy, the group at the center of the Helderberg Wind Project, told The Enterprise this week that the town now has all the data it has requested.

“The town has been sent everything agreed to, and documented it,” Pruskowski said. “I re-sent it to them in an e-mail…I sent everything that we’d completed, including data summarization, to Price and [Supervisor] Mike Hammond, so, I don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Other business

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

— Heard from Hammond that the town’s insurance premiums have dropped from $21,810 last year to $19,024 this year; and

— Heard from Hammond that new rates for telephone and Internet from Time Warner Cable will save the town $77 a month.

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