OmniWind Energy Systems, LLC will soon be installing wind turbines in the parking lot of the Lanoka Harbor Walmart after receiving approval by the Lacey Township zoning Board of Adjustment by a vote of 6-1.
“I’m not sure that the one to two percent in energy savings that Walmart will gleam from this balances the negative criteria,” said Barbara Vena, the one board member to vote against the turbines.
“A lot of people have expressed their concerns. I haven’t heard any support from residents,” Vena said. “The state doesn’t quantify what percent in energy savings would be beneficial.”
OmniWind will be replacing 10 existing light poles with stronger poles, reinstalling the light fixtures at the current height and installing small turbines on the top of the poles.
The applicant received the variance approval from the zoning board to extend the lighting poles to 51 feet, as code currently allows poles to rise to only 35 feet. The applicant also sought a use variance, as wind systems were not a permitted use in Lacey.
“I expected it from day one,” Jacqueline Court resident Bud DeFiglio said of the decision. DeFiglio has expressed his opposition to the turbines since OmniWind first appeared before the zoning board in August. “This will be the only place in the world where there will be 10 of these. We don’t know what that will do.”
The zoning board did not do enough due diligence on determining the cumulative effect of 10 OmniWind turbines in one location, he said.
But after five months, OmniWind founder Carl Douglas said, “The Township is very lucky to have a board that did such a thorough job.”
The board established a list of 25 conditions that OmniWind must adhere to in order to install the wind system. The conditions include securing state permits and approvals prior to installation, amending the plan to depict ten wind turbines, ensuring the poles are set back 81 feet from the building and that the turbines generate no more than 55 dB, providing a maintenance schedule, submitting a report on the system every six months for two years and annually thereafter, allowing inspection by the township engineer and more.
“These are all moot issues,” Alison Lemke of Forked River said of the conditions. “This isn’t a hardship, it’s simply a wish list for Walmart…it’s not just a free for all because something is deemed inherently beneficial.”
Before the December zoning board meeting, members Joseph Apello and Colleen Bradley visited several OmniWind turbine sites.
“I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised,” Apello told Lemke. “It actually benefits both you and I….It’s less power on the grid, which impacts all of us in town.”
Douglas could not provide an anticipated installation date as it depends on when the company receives state permits and approvals.
The conditions will be made available to the public once they are finalized by zoning board Attorney Thomas Gannon.