It seems the dream of the former Eastham Energy Committee, to site four 460-foot tall wind turbines on town-owned property in North Eastham, was just that – a dream.
There is little likelihood any commercial wind turbine will be erected in Eastham, due to noise and setback concerns.
Tom Reilly, chairman of the Wind Turbine Ad Hoc Committee, told selectmen Monday that after five meetings, “a majority of the ad hoc committee feels that there are significant hurdles to siting commercial-scale wind turbines in a residentially zoned area in such a way that the noise impact does not negatively impact nearby residences.”
But the ad hoc committee will continue to try to craft a bylaw “that reflects the committee’s views for standards appropriate for the town of Eastham – whether or not this bylaw would discourage or preclude the development of commercial wind turbines,” Reilly said. “Whatever the possible outcome, we feel it is necessary to complete this task because the absence of a bylaw could invite proposals that may not be appropriate for the town.”
Selectwoman Linda Burt, chairwoman of the board, asked Reilly if the ad hoc committee “came to an agreement that wind turbines are needed in Eastham.”
Reilly said the committee has not even considered that. “Whether they are needed or not is not on the table,” he said.
Selectmen formed the ad hoc committee after both the town’s proposed bylaw for wind turbines, and a bylaw proposed by abutters who were opposed to the former energy committee’s plans to site up to four 460-foot tall wind turbines in their residential neighborhood was withdrawn from the May Town Meeting warrant. Selectmen charged the new committee with looking at both bylaws and coming up with a compromise in time to present it to selectmen by Oct. 31. The energy committee has been disbanded.
Reilly told selectmen, “We will come up with a bylaw which will work for any site in Eastham.”
Selectwoman Carol Martin said she’s attended four of the ad hoc committee’s meetings and has been impressed with the work it has done and how it’s focused on the need to come up with a bylaw.
“I don’t think anyone on the ad hoc committee is against wind turbines,” Reilly said. “The objection is to the adverse effect wind turbines will have on our citizenry.”
Joe Mistretta, ad hoc committee member and former member of the energy committee, said, “The real challenge is to try to find a reasonable balance between what can be good for the town and what we can do to reasonably protect the town.” He predicted “we will not all agree 100 percent, but we will come up with a bylaw.”
Selectman Martin McDonald, who has attended four of the ad hoc committee’s meetings, but missed its last meeting, said he did not recall the committee ever talking about setback being a problem.
Reilly said the ad hoc committee did not discuss setbacks at its last meeting, but “we’ve gotten to the point where we know noise and setbacks are two critical concerns.”
McDonald said he thought the height of the proposed turbines was an issue, too.
The height is “some concern,” Reilly said. “But we feel it is not that far out of whack for Eastham as the noise and setbacks are, given the size of the town and the residential density.”
The ad hoc committee was concerned that parts of the town’s proposed bylaw included standards taken from the state’s bylaw that were “inadequate for Eastham. Our greatest concern is the state standards for noise and setbacks and there is a strong feeling on the part of several ad hoc committee members that more stringent requirements will be needed.”
They have looked at proposed bylaws in Truro and Orleans for commercial wind turbines. “From what I’ve seen, much of theirs are direct lifts” from the state bylaw, Reilly said. Orleans, he added, has a huge parcel of land on which to site its turbines, 500 acres, and does not have the homes nearby as is the case in Eastham.
Selectman Dave Schropfer thanked Reilly and the ad hoc committee for all the work it has done. “I hope you report back that we are very impressed that this has been doing so well.”
When Reilly said all of the ad hoc committee members have the “best interests of the town and its citizens at heart,” Selectman Ken Collins beamed and said, “That’s a winning statement.”
By Marilyn Miller
GateHouse News Service
9 August 2007
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