Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Conservation Advisory Council.

One of the most difficult and most fun things I do for the Town of Dryden is to represent the Dryden Town Board to the Conservation Advisory Council. The difficult part is that the things the Council works on are somewhat technical and I have to do some research to understand the issues. The fun part is the lively open discussion among well qualified people taking positive action to protect natural resources and enhance the quality of life in the Town.

The main agenda item last night was to review proposed legislation to allow residential wind energy installations and other renewable energy sources. We were expecting some controversy and there was a bit of tension underlying the friendly banter at the beginning of the meeting.

Environmental Planner, Dan Kwasnowski, related the hiring of a new intern to work on updating GIS information and to research riparian buffer zones, purchase of the land needed to continue the pedestrian trail from Dryden to Freeville and some other small items as we eased toward discussion of the controversial renewable energy ordinance.

Stuart Davis and Judy Pierpont, who were active in the group that opposed the Cornell wind farm project on Mt Pleasant were in the audience. Happily, their presentation included a copy of the wind energy law recently passed in the town of Malone. That law was designed to allow residential wind energy use while explicitly excluding industrial wind farming. Davis and Pierpont provided a point by point comparison to the proposed Dryden legislation.

While some conservation Council members, as well as at least one Town Board member, favor exploring industrial wind farming as well as other renewable energy sources, the law we're working on now is explicitly intended to enable the safe installation of residential wind, solar and geothermal energy now, while research on the more controversial industrial scale wind farming continues.

The pace of the early part of the meeting was extremely slow. One member recommended that because of the gravity of the issue, we adhere to parliamentary procedure. We agreed to proceed point by point through the documentation Environmental Planner, Dan Kwasnowski, has prepared. It was 9:00PM by the time we reached the first line of Dan's paper. People started to relax as we discussed the Special Permit process and Short Environmental Quality Review vs Long Environmental Quality Review and other details that had been hashed out at last month's meeting. By the time we got to scenic/view impact, we were clearly all on the same team.

I should mention that scenic/view impact is only page 3 of 10. By 10:00PM people were starting to mention limiting the discussion. I've been planning to introduce the legislation at the July 13 Board meeting. So it was important to me that we get all the way through the proposal so that the language can be finalized and reviewed before it's introduced to the Board. At 11:00 a motion to adjourn was made and defeated. One member had to leave but we still had a quorum. Another member was planning to leave and give a proxy to the chairman. But she was persuaded to stay.

By midnight we had discussed and voted on each of the twenty-six details that will be included in the legislation that will be recommended to the Board. Consensuss was reached on most details. Differences of opinion and a need for further research were noted some. At midnight I believe we all felt that the recommendation the Conservation Council will make to the Town Board is a sound one. My heartfelt thanks everyone for plowing through this. I hope next month we can return to work on riparian buffer zones.


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