Fall River – A comprehensive ordinance regulating wind turbines was temporarily put on the back burner after city officials and a private company said it was far too restrictive as drafted.
Some concerns expressed this week to the City Council’s legislation and ordinance committee came from the head of the sewer treatment facility and representatives of Lightolier at the Fall River Industrial Park.
The light manufacturer employs more than 700 people and has studied and sought grants for nearly a year to build a turbine on its 32-acre site, said Loretta George, a company spokeswoman.
Terrance J. Sullivan, the city’s administrator of public utilities, said passage of the law would jeopardize a $41,000 grant received to test the feasibility of a wind turbine at the sewer treatment plant on Bay Street.
A 140-foot test tower was erected on the site about a month ago to help the city determine potential electricity savings. Its annual plant expense is $1.3 million, Sullivan said.
In both cases, Sullivan and George said the setbacks would cut the legs from their prospective projects.
As written, any wind turbine would need to be at least twice the distance as its height from a property line or building.
The height envisioned for both the sewer plant and the Lightolier manufacturing company is in the 300- to 400-foot range, requiring property line setbacks of 600 to 800 feet.
The height restriction drafted for commercial structures was 300 feet, although the Zoning Board of Appeals issuing required special permits could waive the height limit.
“The setbacks would have stopped me dead in my tracks,” Sullivan said, stating there was no provision to waive them.
He proposed in an Aug. 1 letter that municipal projects be exempted from setbacks and height requirements.
The city’s already hired Boreal Renewable Development in Arlington to conduct a $48,000 feasibility study, all but about $7,000 paid for by a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
The city envisions a $2 million to $4 million wind turbine cost, and construction grants would be sought.
After the ordinance committee met for an hour and decided significant amendments to the proposal were needed, the council Tuesday night withdrew the ordinance.
Major ordinance revisions require a new process and public hearings.
The council sought amended wind energy facility regulations for the equipment to be put in appropriate and safe locations.
It included standards for placement, construction, design, modification and removal.
Turbines generating more than 25 kilowatts would be considered commercial, those with lower capacity residential.
Commercial equipment would be restricted to industrial, industrial park, water and open space/recreation districts with at least five acres of land. Residential units would require two acres and could be up to 70 feet high, unless the ZBA granted an exception.
Thomas F. McGuire Jr., city corporation counsel, said the ordinance he drafted at the council’s request was “very restrictive” and meant to be adjusted.
He included “all of the restrictions from other communities.”
“They asked me for help in drafting it, but they didn’t tell me what they wanted, so I put in everything,” McGuire said. “It’s absolutely too restrictive.”
He added, “It’s not intended for adoption. It just tells you what you can do.”
By Michael Holtzman
GateHouse News Service
31 August 2007
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