The Jefferson County Planning Board approved changes to Clayton's local laws for zoning wind power development during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The amendments cover both residential and commercial wind turbines and, for the most part, follow the recommendations of two committees.
The approval came with some comments.
"There are standards for noise above ambient and a set limit, so it is kind of jumping around a bit to get at the noise issue," said Andrew R. Nevin, senior planner for the county Planning Department.
Member Clifford J. Schneider pointed out that one of the stipulations, a set limit of 50 decibels at dwellings and public buildings when calculated as the sound level exceeded 10 percent of the time, was left over from the current law.
A standard later in the section keeps a 50 decibel limit, measured as the sound exceeded 90 percent of the time, a more common measure.
The law also refers to a separate report by acoustic engineers Richard R. James and George W. Kamperman for the rules on ambient noise measurement locations.
"It is critical to have an accurate measure of background sound," Mr. Schneider said. He is a Cape Vincent resident who has published peer-reviewed articles on noise levels.
"The law referenced an outside document which is a discussion on background noise levels, but it really isn't a methodology," Mr. Nevin said. "They should set it up a little better or attach it to the law."
"A lot of communities are building in complaint resolution rules," Mr. Schneider said. "It would be a good idea for them to consider."
The board also recommended that the law include setbacks from the Perch River Wildlife Management Area and Chaumont Barrens. The proposed law calls for setbacks of 4,500 feet from the Chaumont River and 500 feet from state-regulated wetlands.
In considering the small turbine rules, Mr. Schneider said the noise standards should be consistent.
Under the proposed law, noise from commercial turbines shouldn't exceed ambient levels in both audible and low-frequency ranges by more than 5 decibels at nonparticipating residents' property lines. Noise cannot exceed 50 decibels at any public building or private dwelling, including participating property owners' homes and those who sign easement agreements.
For small turbines, the law would allow up to 40 decibels of noise at property lines.
The town's public hearing on the law will be at 6 p.m. April 21 at the Clayton Opera House.
The planning board also heard zoning amendments for small wind towers in the town of LeRay.
That town is considering setbacks of one and a half times the tower height from property lines, dwellings, overhead utilities and road right-of-ways, 2,500 feet from important bird areas and 1,500 feet from state-registered wetlands.
The law would set a limit of 100 feet tall for the towers and that the noise created by the tower be under five decibels above ambient sound levels.
"It didn't establish a definition for ambient sound," Mr. Nevin said. "And it requires a sound analysis but doesn't give a methodology, just requires an engineer."
The county department suggested the town consider adding other bird and bat habitats in the area to its list and consult Fort Drum on radar or training interruption.