Denning residents battle Hirsch over proposed turbine

By Joe Moskowitz
A battle that has drawn publicity to one of the region’s smallest and quietest towns may be drawing to a head. The Ulster County Town of Denning, with a full-time population of approximately 560 residents, has been getting national attention because of one of its part-time residents, actor Judd Hirsch.
Hirsch who starred in TVs “Taxi”, and Hollywood’s “Independence Day” has been at center stage in a battle with some local residents over his plan to construct a 176-foot-tall wind turbine on his property.
Hirsch, who wants to generate electricity to power a geothermal heating system on property that he has owned for many years, has accused those residents who oppose his plan of jealousy and ignorance.

Opponents’ concerns
Opponents of the plan claim it is will make too much noise and will mar the area’s scenic views.
Both sides will have their say when the Denning Zoning Board of Appeals meets on February 25 to make a decision on Hirsch’s application.
Denning Town Clerk Joy Ann Monfort told the News that the legal notices advertising the meeting were being sent out on Tuesday, Jan. 28 and she said she hopes this will end the controversy as the town isn’t used to this kind of publicity. But, that all depends on what the ZBA does.

County assistance
The town, seeking guidance, called on the Ulster County Planning Board for its help. The county made some non-binding recommendations, but didn’t resolve the problem. Opponents cite a clause in a town ordinance that says, “Any use not specifically permitted shall be deemed prohibited.” But, the town also allows for, “customary accessory use”, but it doesn’t mention wind turbines as being customary accessories. If the ZBA says turbines are not permitted, it could issue a variance, allowing the turbine to be built. Or, it could kill the project. If it determines that wind turbines are a customary accessory use, then construction can begin.
However, before a variance can be granted, the county says the town would need drawings to determine if the turbine would be unsightly and noise test results from similar projects would have to be submitted. In that case, the battle would be far from over.
Either way, the Ulster County Planning Board suggests that the Town of Denning come up with an ordinance so that when people want to use solar or wind power, they will know in advance what they can and cannot do.