The Cohocton town board passed a local law Monday setting maximum decibel levels for residential windmills.

The Cohocton town board passed a local law Monday setting maximum decibel levels for residential windmills.

Councilman Wayne Hunt said Tuesday the law establishes 50 decibels as the maximum level on the lines of properties with windmills. The decibel level can’t exceed 45 decibels at the closest dwellings.

The law relates only to residential windmills, which can reach a maximum height of 150 feet. The larger industrial turbines can exceed 400 feet.
Studies showed the decibel levels at the residential windmills in the town to be close to 50 decibels already, said Hunt. If the boards had lowered the legal decibel level, it would not have impacted the three residential windmills already constructed.

There is a quieter alternative to windmills. Windtamers have lower decibel levels, but the board couldn’t force residents to use them, said Hunt.
“We can’t outlaw all the rest,” he said. “We can’t show favoritism to that company. They’re new on the market, and they have everybody else at a disadvantage regarding noise as of now.”

The board first discussed the law at the December board meeting. The law was tabled at that time after a resident raised concerns about the noise impacting people on adjacent properties.

After the public comments, the board sent the law back to the planning board for a review of the decibel levels produced by residential windmills. The planning board recommended the town board not change any of the conditions of the law, said Councilman Jeffrey Wise when contacted Tuesday.

And this time, when the law was brought before the board, there were no comments from the public, said Wise.

But the law wasn’t passed with exactly the same conditions as when it was discussed in December. The board enacted one change, allowing the code enforcement officer, Joseph Bob, to inspect residential windmills during construction.

Wise wasn’t sure if there are plans to construct other residential windmills within the town this coming construction season.

In other business, the board:

Received the annual financial report from Supervisor Jack Zigenfus. The supervisor was at the Association of Towns conference in New York City and didn’t attend the board meeting.

Increased some building code fees. The method of determining the fees changed, said Hunt, and is based more on state codes and fees charged by other municipalities. Even with the increase, said Wise, the town still charges less than most other municipalities. Wise and Hunt didn’t have the exact charges with them when contacted Tuesday.