Changes are blowing in the wind in the Town of Benton

Loujane Johns

At the Oct. 14 meeting of the Benton Town Board a public hearing was scheduled to make two changes in the Wind Energy Facilities Overlay District Regulation of the Zoning Law. The public hearing will be held Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. along with the regular town board meeting. Supervisor Bob Clark asked that the meeting be changed to that night. Town board meetings are normally the second Wednesday of the month.

The first change in the law changes the wording “occupied building” to “occupied residence.” The board seeks to further define the wording to mean a house.  Currently,for example, the law could be interpreted as an animal in a barn.  The term is used in the law, concerning the distance a wind tower can be placed in proximity to a residence.

The second proposed change will put a 407 foot limit on height of a tower (to top of blade), which was not addressed in the original law. 

The town entered into a host agreement with Empire State Energy in Oct. 2007.  To date only a tower to record wind speed has been put up in Benton. The original law was passed in March 2007.

Other business addressed by the board included:

• RABIES CLINIC: Clark said the recent county rabies clinic held in Benton was very successful. Fifty dogs,43 cats and four parrots received the vaccine.

• CELL PHONES: Councilperson Becky Jensen was asked last month to check on what other towns reimburse their employees for cell phone use. She reported on her findings and the board approved of setting $50 a month as the maximum amount town employees can receive.

• ZONING: Clark said General Code had contacted the office about re-doing the code book. With the pending public hearing to change the wind law, members decided to wait. Clark also said he wanted to look at the budgets to help plan for the cost.

• DRILLING: Clark said he and Building and Zoning Officer John Griffin attended a county held meeting on the Marcellus Shale drilling. A task force was formed with representatives from several towns. Now, he said, the plan is to break into smaller groups to address one issue at a time. “I give the county credit. They stepped up and showed interest in this,” said Clark. He asked board members to read up and stay informed on hydrofracturing drilling for gas. He told the members that there is little that local government can do in regard to drilling.  The only local control, Clark said, is to make restrictions on road use and require bonding for road damage from heavy equipment.

• BUDGET: Clark called for two budget workshops to be held in the next two weeks.

• WATER: To be compatible with the new water meter readers, 100 new water heads are needed in Water District #2. Clark said if the heads are purchased now, before a price change, $15 can be saved on each unit. The board approved of the purchase.

•LICENSES: Benton Town Clerk Bobbi Wolfe reported that she sold $15,000 in hunting licenses in September compared to $5,000 in September 2008. The town received a check for $475 from the state for issuing the licenses. The large volume was due to hunters beating the deadline for significant raises in DEC fees as of Oct. 1.

• COUNTY: Legislator Don House was in attendance and Clark asked if he had any news from the county. House said there is a possibility of obtaining some surplus stimulus money to start work on State Route 54A sooner than scheduled.