Litchfield NY is considering a relatively flexible, while stringent, local ordinance to govern construction of wind farms. As proposed by a committee of residents charged by the Town Council, the ordinance would avoid strict setback or decibel limits, and instead require easements to be obtained from all residents within 6500 feet of a turbine (just under a mile and a quarter).
The proposed ordinance now goes to the Council for consideration, where some changes are expected to be made. Involving all neighbors who may be affected by new wind turbines could be a very effective approach, as both studies and experience shows that when people are involved in the decision to move forward with a wind farm (and compensated financially, or feel shared ownership), they are far less likely to have negative reactions and experiences. I’m sure that the distance at which easements are required will be a sticking point for all concerned; as proposed, it encompasses a large grey area (from roughly 3500-6500 feet) in which acoustic effects are likely to be minimal, yet possible a small proportion of the time. If the easements don’t effectively become vetoes, it’s quite likely that being involved in the decision could play a key role in this range. Closer than a half mile or so, the proposed easements may well be sometimes used as a veto, as at least a few residents are apt to feel that the risk of noise issues is not outweighed by financial benefits in the project. Still, the easement approach has many benefits over a strict decibel or setback limit, assuring that the developer is engaged with everyone who may be affected by the project.