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September 20, 2011

RE: S-2887, Wind Turbines on Preserved Farmland, HELD

Dear Mayor:

Yesterday, the Senate Environment Committee considered but HELD S-2887, which would allow for the construction of certain wind turbines on preserved farmland.    The Committee was deadlocked on the bill, but we anticipate that the bill will again be posted at a future hearing.

The League’s September 14 Dear Mayor letter outlines our opposition to the legislation.  League 2nd Vice President and East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov testified against the bill on behalf the League.   The League was again joined in its opposition by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Sierra Club.  

S-2887, and its Assembly companion A-3992, would establish a new category of farmland-based wind energy generation projects on preserved farms that require no regulatory review other than site plan approval.   The legislation would mandate that that any such qualifying projects shall be a permitted use under local zoning.     

At the hearing yesterday, the Committee considered, but did not adopt, draft amendments that would have changed some key elements of the bill, including:

  • Reinstate notice requirement and municipal review as a permitted use rather than as a use variance;
  • Change the acres required for 1 turbine from 1 for every 33 contiguous acres of farmland to 1 for every 75 contiguous acres;
  • Adopt noise standards consistent with the “Noise Control Act of 1971”;
  • Require that the turbines not operate during hours that would result in flicker.
  • Exempts CAFRA, Highlands and Pinelands municipalities.

Senator Bob Smith, who is the Senate sponsor and Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy committee, indicated that he would also advance a population density amendment to clarify that the bill would pertain only to Salem and Cumberland counties.  However, this amendment was not part of the proposed amendments provided to the League, so we cannot assess its impact. 

Despite these proposed amendments, the League maintains its strong opposition as two fundamental flaws remain.  First, the bill would exempt these special projects from the current Municipal Land Use Law, changing their status from a use variance application to a permitted use; and secondly, the bill would still allow the construction of wind turbines on preserved farmlands. Since public dollars are committed for preservations, this special exception contradicts and undermines the very purpose of the State’s farmland preservation program.

Since no vote was taken, the amendments were not adopted and the bill remains in committee.    We anticipate that the bill will be scheduled again at a future hearing of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. We urge you contact members of the Committee to express your opposition to S-2887.  Committee members and contact information is provided in the League’s September 14 Dear Mayor letter.   

For more on this bill, please see that letter as well as our May 31 Dear Mayor letter.   Questions can be directed to Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x120.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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