FREMONT — During the monthly meeting of the Fremont Town Board on Tuesday, members moved to change several wind energy related local laws to accommodate requests from EverPower, and to install protections for property owners.
The first proposal, to reduce allowable decibel levels from a flat rate of 50 DBA at all times, to 45 during day (7 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and 42 during the night hours (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.), was approved in a 4-1-1 vote, with board member Bud Phelps recording the only opposing vote.
Regulations for low frequency noise were also lowered.
“We’re changing it a lot,” Murray said.
“I question whether there’s going to be anyone there to check it, honey,” Phelps stated. “Who in the world is going to be out there?”
Testing and monitoring of decibel levels will be a responsibility of EverPower as part of the Article 10 process, according to Mayor Emily Murray.
Setbacks 1.5 height of turbine to nearest property line; 1.5 times the height of the turbine to the nearest road; and 1,500 feet from the nearest off-site residence were endorsed unanimously by the board. EverPower must furnish a list of residences within 2,000 feet as well.
Both noise and setback easement agreements are allowed between the company and property owners.
The local law will also require that turbines be 1.1 times the height of the turbine distance from any communications towers to prevent interference with cellular and internet signals.
Most of the evening’s debate centered around the creation of a complaint process and timetables for resolution. The proposal requires the company to generate reports on steps taken to mitigate problems and provide testing data within 30 days of any test. If a sound complaint is not resolved within 120 days, the town would be authorized to hire an independent acoustician at the cost of the company.
If a complaint is not addressed within 365 days, the complaining property owner can require EverPower to purchase their property at 100 percent valuation if they have complied with testing and hired a real estate agent.
Phelps again objected. “It sounds to me like you’re asking everyone, ’here, come on. Sue the wind company. Even if you lose you get paid,” he said.
Company representatives present called the proposal “vague” and “unoganized”, asking for additional clarification in the language defining complaint thresholds. The board would decline.
“It’s a risk and something we don’t have a say in,” said Seth Wilmore, EverPower Director of Environmental Affairs.
Validity of complaints will be left up to the discretion of the town board.
“Hopefully there won’t be any complaints, that’s the goal of changing these,” Board member Cindy Smith said.
In a voice vote, the amendment was carried unanimously.
A maximum height for turbines was set at 500 feet, eased from a previous height of 420 feet.
Construction work was limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with exceptions for wind and temperature conditions.
“When the rotor goes up you need low wind conditions and temperatures,” Wilmore explained the need for exceptions.
Additional amendments indemnified the town from vehicle accidents caused by shadow flicker and ice throw related accidents; it created a slush fund for the removal of “end of life” turbines for the life of the site; reiterated the need to protect vulnerable animal species like birds and bats; and allowed for the wind company to employ private entities to plow access roads.
The proposals will be forwarded to Steuben County for environmental review and approved at the next board meeting.
In separate action, the town board agreed to seek additional intervenor funds from New York State for additional water well testing to satisfy recent complaints.