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Asharoken judge builds windmill structure without permit; some residents say he's getting special treatment

Attorney Brian Giehl, left, poses for a portrait

Attorney Brian Giehl, left, poses for a portrait with his business partner, Asharoken Judge Mark Kleczka, beside a wind generator in front of Kleczka's Asharoken home, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Asharoken Judge Mark Kleczka installed a windmill-like structure on his property without a permit or electrical inspection, and some village residents are asking if he's getting special treatment.

Kleczka, co-owner of an alternative energy company, said he built the 22-foot-tall prototype of a new wind generator to demonstrate a new concept for sustainable energy -- a decision spurred by superstorm Sandy.

"When all of the electrical poles were down . . . it was pretty scary," he said. "We think this type of technology will give that house some protection."

Several residents said at a village meeting last week they were unhappy the elected official has not been made to remove the structure.

"If other people have to go through months and months of hearings and zoning board meetings, it seems that it [the rules] should be applicable to all," Robert Holmes said.

Mayor Greg Letica said Kleczka is being treated like any other resident of the village of about 650 people. He declined to comment further.

Kleczka said he received a notice of violation last Tuesday and was told to apply for a permit within 30 days. But he said he had already applied for zoning permits in Northport Village, where he practices law, and in Asharoken for his home.

In November and December 2013, village officials twice discussed allowing wind turbines on residential property. Village attorney Bruce Migatz said they were not permitted and would require a variance from the zoning board before one could be built, according to village meeting minutes.

Kleczka and Northport attorney Brian Giehl own Nature's Energy, a company that plans to sell the wind generators in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The wind turbines spin on a different rotation from traditional windmills, operate silently and do not harm birds, Giehl said.

"Everybody thinks wind, they think of a big propeller, which is the opposition we run [into] at these public hearings," Giehl said. "People turn around at these public meetings and say, 'I don't want to look at that thing on your roof.' And you say, 'What are you looking at? You don't even know what it looks like.' "

Asharoken Village code requires a permit for any new structures or accessory structures on residential property. Violations for installing electric structures are punishable with a fine of up to $250 for each offense. Each day the violation continues is considered a separate offense.

Kleczka and Giehl said new code may need to be written for the type of energy generation they're promoting. They said the structure is not connected to Kleczka's house and is not generating energy.

The roughly 200-pound turbine went up in his yard in September.

"We didn't have anything to show anyone," he said. "So we constructed this temporary location, and we assembled the machine so people could see it and see that it does not make noise, with the intent that it could be moved to my home or my building" when permits came through.

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