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Neighbors voice wariness over plan for wind power  

FITCHBURG— While city officials have lately expressed much interest in the potential of wind power, some of Gregory J. and Michelle Lemay’s neighbors on Oak Hill Road are not convinced their neighborhood is a good match for a proposed 120-foot wind turbine.

The Lemays petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance on the city’s height restrictions to erect the turbine, which they said would generate enough electricity from their windy hill to power their home at 1100 Oak Hill Road.

The ZBA heard comments for and against the proposal last night, but delayed voting until after members have taken a walking tour of the site. The hearing is set to continue at 7 p.m. Oct. 9.

Mr. Lemay told the board the city stands to gain federal dollars if it allows wind turbines in the city, and officials are exploring various places within its bounds for wind farms at the same time an ordinance concerning their installation is being discussed.

Charles R. Warner of 1138 Oak Hill Road said he would be able to see the turbine from his abutting property and was still in support of the Lemays’ plan.

“I personally am in favor of wind energy,” Mr. Warner said.

“With all this global warming, we should do something,” added Steven Soini of Caswell Road, who also favors the Lemay project.

But several other residents stated opposition to the plan.

Ronald B. Feldman of 1111 Oak Hill Road was among those concerned about the turbine’s visual impact on the neighborhood, as well as the traffic hazard posed by passing motorists stopping to look at it.

Other neighbors worried about noise, though Mr. Lemay argued the sound generated by the turbine would be comparable to that of a window air conditioner.

Roland A. Fournier of 1067 Oak Hill Road said he shared those concerns and was also worried about the noise the turbine could create. Even more disconcerting, he told the board, was the precedent its approval could set.

“My objection would be (to) windmills in any residential area,” Mr. Fournier said. Putting turbines in rural areas would be appropriate, he added, but any developer with hilltop property could be lining up to install windmills if the ZBA endorses the Lemays’ plan.

Mr. Lemay said a computer analysis of his property showed average wind speeds would be 11.4 mph, and up to 25 mph during winter.

ZBA member Matthew C. Straight recalled a developer’s proposal for a large wind turbine operation off Caswell Road a few years ago. Determining the wind speeds was going to take a year, he recalled, encouraging Mr. Lemay to make sure he’s confident in his figures before investing any more money into his plans. Mr. Lemay said he and his wife have spent about $3,000 so far.

Board member Michael McLaughlin, who called the issue a very important case for the city because of the potential of wind power, suggested holding off on a vote until members can tour the site.

The board decided to continue the public hearing, in part to allow time for the site walk and also to get a clarification from Building Inspector Michael Gallant. His rejection of the Lemays’ request – which prompted their application to the ZBA – cited the city’s height restrictions and also indicated they needed a use variance.

ZBA Chairman Vincent P. Pusateri II indicated he would send a letter to Mr. Gallant seeking clarification on why a use variance would be needed for the site.

By Matthew Bruun

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

12 September 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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