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Proposed windmill stirs controversy

By Fritz Mayer
November 20, 2013

Property owner and Hollywood legend Judd Hirsch has applied for a variance to allow him to construct a 176-foot turbine on Eve Eden Road in the Town of Denning, which is on the north side of the remote Roundout Reservoir.

Some of his neighbors are less than pleased with the prospect of a windmill in their rural neighborhood, and they have circulated a petition asking the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) to deny the variance.

The ZBA had been scheduled to make a decision on the matter at a November 13 meeting, but the Ulster County Planning Board (UPB) got wind of the issue and asked the ZBA to put off a the decision until the planning board has time to review the application.

In New York State, county planning boards can weigh in on zoning matters in some cases, for instance, if a project would have intercommunity impacts. But a spokeswoman for the UPB said no one could offer a comment about what the board will be looking for until they have examined the application. The UPB meets next on December 4.

According to the minutes of the ZBA meeting on October 30, which included a public hearing on the wind turbine, various concerns were raised about the matter. The question of whether birds would be harmed by the windmill was responded to by a contractor for the project, Sherret Chase, who offered a statement from the National Audubon Society, which said residents would see no impact on the local bird population.

Also according to the minutes, “Questions were raised about physical dangers (ice fling, sound, catastrophic failure, fire and rescue). The site was chosen to make sure that these possible problems would not be a danger to the homeowner. The site chosen is a far distance from neighboring properties as to remove effect of failure.”

The minutes indicate that the biggest concern was the impact the windmill would have on the viewshed, especially the “magnificent view of the Shawangunk Mountain range,” which reportedly “would not be blocked for anyone.”

In deliberating the matter, board members will probably be considering relevant sections of the town code, which say that a variance may only be granted if three conditions are met: the land in question cannot yield a reasonable return if used only for a purpose allowed in the district in which it is located; the circumstances applying to the property are unique and do not generally apply to other properties in the district; the use to be authorized by the variance will not alter the essential character of the surrounding area.