HARWICH – Commercial use of wind generated electricity here will have to wait until town meeting promulgates regulations, the appeals board has decided. A petition for a 20 kilowatt wind turbine to be located at The Depot in North Harwich was rejected by the board last week.
Several members of the board said approval of the variance allowing use of the 115.5-foot tower/turbine was “overstepping the board’s jurisdiction.” The petition was sought by Depot Development LLC. Property owner Gerald Bojanowski said he would prefer to use green energy rather than petroleum generated electricity,” especially produced from Middle East oil.”
“Global warming is a reality and we all on the Cape are dependent on Canal Electric one way or the other,” Bojanowski told the board last Wednesday.
He said that plant consumes 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of fuel per hour to supply the Cape with electricity, all the while emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Bojanowski said he is forced to pay $10,000 a year for oil-polluting electricity.
The green energy resource proposed for the 500 Depot St. commercial facilities would not be a detriment to the industrial light zone, he said, adding it may be a learning tool for other businesses there. Bojanowski cited the findings of town meeting when approving a residential wind energy system bylaw last spring.
“Harwich finds that wind energy is an abundant, renewable and nonpolluting energy resource and that its conversion to electricity will reduce our dependence on nonrenewable energy resources and decrease the air and water pollution that results from use of conventional energy sources,” Bojanowski read from the findings the planning board presented to town meeting.
He pointed out the system he is seeking to install is within the parameters of the residential bylaw approved by voters.
Barry Worth, chairman of the town’s utilities and energy conservation commission, rose to speak in favor of the petition and concurred the proposal meets the requirements for systems allowed in the residential zone.
Worth said the commercial use portion of the bylaw is not yet complete and thus not yet approved by the town. He said the proposal is in a good zone for application once the bylaw is approved.
Dennis resident and property abutter Sean Murphy said the wind turbine would be located across from his backyard. A 115-foot tower is going to impact his property, Murphy said.
“At night all you hear is crickets and during the day you hear nothing but the junkyard,” Murphy said. But he made it clear he did not want to replace the crickets with the sound of turbine blades.
Town Planner Susan Leven presented the position of the planning board in support of wind energy development and said they are in the process of creating the commercial segment of the bylaw.
“The planning board feels (this proposal) can be constructed in the industrial zone without disturbance to the neighborhood,” Leven said.
“This facility will be in direct viewing of our residence located at the All Cape Self Storage on Great Western Road,” Dewitt Davenport of Davenport Realty wrote to the board. “The residence is on the second floor of the office building and will have an unobstructed view of the wind turbine and most of the structure.”
Davenport said he opposes the project on the basis it will damage the quality of life, especially with noise, vibration and sun strobing. He said someone might have a warm and fuzzy feeling regarding wind turbines if they don’t live next to them. Davenport reminded the board there are reasons a variance is required.
Board member Murray Johnson said he is personally in favor of the use of wind energy and challenged the noise assertions, stating he has a turbine on his boat. He sleeps within eight feet of it and “it does not disturb me in a 40-knot wind. It’s very, very quiet.
“I do support your project. It’s a very enviable project,” Johnson said. “I wish I could put one up on my property across from town hall.”
Appeals board member Susan Brauner said professional literature cites no decrease in property values when turbines are cited near residences. In several communities, she added, they have increased values.
But member Jack Brown wanted to know what authority the board had to act on the petition when town bylaws do not address wind turbines in the industrial zone.
Appeals Board Chairman Richard Flink said the board’s job is to uphold the bylaws. When something comes in that violates zoning, they can suggest a change to the bylaws. He cited the matter of Dave’s Ribs needing to change zoning bylaws two years ago to allow legal operation of his food service along Queen Anne Road.
The town planner pointed out the board had approved a second sign for a commercial business along Route 28 in the previous petition and that is not allowed in the zoning bylaws.
“There are situations where we can exercise a degree of discretion, but this is a large discretion,” Flink responded.
Flink said he supports renewable energy, but he is conflicted with the proposal because additional applications will come in and point to the precedence if this approved.
He recommended Bojanowski put a bylaw proposal before town meeting to get what he wants.
“So we’re not subjected to something that is a clear violation,” Flink said. “There is a rule of reason and this goes beyond that.”
Bojanowski said timing is a factor, citing the likelihood of not getting a bylaw amendment before town meeting for another year. He said the commonwealth has grants for up to $35,000 to establish wind turbines and he is concerned those funds will run out during that timeframe.
Leven said it is possible to submit an amendment for the special town meeting selectmen are anticipated to call within the next month. She said the bylaw does not have to be complex, suggesting a single sentence added to the residential bylaw might suffice. She recommended Bojanowski come to the planning board and ask them to participate.
“It’s unfortunate to have us legislating when town meeting hasn’t done so,” Brown said. “It’s an important topic and we should collectively get behind you and make it happen.”
But Brauner did not see approval of the petition as a large discretion, comparing it to someone buying a two-family house and using the entire structure as a single residence.
“We’re clearly on the edge,” Brauner said. “We’re already allowing it as a residential use.”
Flink said if it is granted and neighbors appeal it, the permit could be tied up in court forever. He recommended Bojanowski withdraw the petition and pursue a zoning change. The petitioner followed that advice.
by William F. Galvin
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