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Wind turbines for city hilltop generate debate  

When it was first proposed, the plan to construct a wind farm off the Massachusetts coast seemed like a good idea.

After all, any project that would wean the energy-starved Northeast off oil and gas seemed laudable.

But the scheme soon hit a brick wall, when serious environmental questions were raised about the proposal to erect 130 or so wind towers across 44,000 acres of Nantucket Sound.

The waters of the Atlantic Ocean are far removed from the seven hills of Worcester, but expect these spinning devices, which many believe will eventually help meet America’s future energy needs, to come under close local scrutiny.

The discussion starts tonight when city officials begin the formal process of drawing up regulations to oversee construction and oversight of these turbines.

Specifically, the City Council’s Land Use Committee will begin reviewing an ordinance drawn up by Joel J. Fontane Jr., Worcester’s director of planning and regulatory services, that would allow for the windmills.

The meeting will be held at 5:30 in council chambers.

There aren’t a heck of a lot of folks knocking on the doors of City Hall for permission to put up turbines in their backyards.

But Holy Name High School on Granite Street is hoping to cut its electricity costs by $200,000 by building one on its campus.

School officials, however, can’t construct the turbine because city zoning codes don’t allude to the devices.

The turbine proposed for Holy Name would cost about $1.5 million to $2.1 million to build and would be about 155 feet in height. Given the hilltop location, it would be prominently visible.

Some school abutters have already raised noise, aesthetic and other concerns.

“The meeting will provide people with an opportunity to ask questions about wind turbines and under what circumstance they will be allowed to be built,” said District 4 Councilor Barbara G. Haller, who chairs the land use panel.

City officials said they want Worcester to be in the forefront when it comes to the use of wind turbines as a means of providing energy, and they believe Mr. Fontane’s zoning amendment should address any concerns.

The amendment, for example, requires a 650-foot separation from the nearest building of an abutter and provides a height cap of 265 feet.

Ms. Haller said Mr. Fontane’s proposal provides a good jumping-off point for discussion.

“This puts us on the path,” she said.

In addition to the Land Use Committee, the Planning Board will also examine Mr. Fontane’s proposal before the council takes a final vote on the amendment.

Under the language, the Planning Board would be charged with issuing special permits for the turbines.

By Bronislaus B. Kush

telegram.com

28 February 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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