WAYNE – Residents won’t be seeing wind turbines going up close to their homes under new zoning rules adopted this week.

The Township Council unanimously adopted the measure after a heated debate Wednesday night: Are turbines unsightly intruders with potentially damaging health effects? Or should they be accepted as just part of the skyline of an energy-independent future?

“When you look out your back door, you don’t want to look at a nuclear power plant, you don’t want to look at a wind turbine,” Mayor Christopher Vergano said today. “We are protecting the values of residential properties by keeping them [at] a certain setback.” 

The new rules ban turbines within 1,640 feet – 500 meters – of residential neighborhoods, schools or day care centers. Council members approved the measure after defending their green credentials and saying they would not be intimated by threats of litigation.

Opponents of the ordinance fired harsh words at officials. They said the township was ill-motivated and called the measure an embarrassment when the trend is moving toward acceptance of renewable energy projects. Among them was Robert Burke, owner of Wayne Auto Spa, who is seeking planning board approval for a turbine at his business.

Katie Scheidt, a resident who volunteers giving presentations on climate change, argued that “To deny any citizen to generate their own electricity, whether it be wind or solar or otherwise, is anti-American – it perpetuates our dependence on foreign oil and it’s dangerous.

“I think it’s foolish,” she said, “and it makes the town look backwards, which we are not.”

The turbines come in diverse forms ranging from the iconic propeller-like tower to cone-shaped models.The township based the restriction on a study that suggested separating turbines from housing because of noise and other potential health side effects, according to officials.

Councilman Joseph Scuralli said officials are not against wind power, but want to keep it in the proper place.

“It’s dangerous to put industrial activity in residential zones where it can threaten to destroy property values,” Scuralli said. “People’s homes are probably the biggest investment they will ever make.”

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