FITCHBURG— The City Council agreed unanimously last night to send a petition to a public hearing that would create a city ordinance to govern wind turbines.
Council President Jody M. Joseph said the hearing, set for Dec. 18, will allow the city to move forward on renewable energy without the need for a special permit process. Counselors agreed last night to send a letter recommending the Zoning Board of Appeals not take any action on pending wind-turbine proposals until the law is clarified.
“We can’t move forward without the proper guidelines,” ZBA member Mike McLaughlin said after the meeting. “We have to have something in place.”
Councilors agreed to send a letter to the mayor to ask for the Planning Department’s help in crafting the ordinance.
The ZBA is reviewing a proposal by Gregory J. and Michelle Lemay to build a 120-foot-high wind turbine with 11-1/2-foot blades in the backyard of their home at 1100 Oak Hill Road. They would need variances to complete the project.
Ronald Feldman, an abutter to the Lemays, said he is in favor of the proposal to amend the city code so wind turbine projects can be evaluated in a uniform way.
“Personally, I’m in favor of wind power,” Mr. Feldman said after the meeting. “It should be explored. But regulating is the way to go.”
He said he has reviewed wind turbine bylaws in other communities.
“None of them would permit the type of petition that the Lemays are asking for,” Mr. Feldman said. He said the Lemays’ project would be excluded under other communities’ bylaws because the residential wind turbine would be too close to his house.
The city is also applying for a Community Wind Collaborative grant; if approved, it would be used to build a wind turbine to power a city water plant at Lovell Reservoir at 1200 Rindge Road.
Officials hope to save up to $55,000 a year on energy costs at the plant with the installation of the turbine, which could be up to 400 feet high.
Hearings on the two petitions have been packed with abutters concerned about noise, ice formation, and bird deaths; however, about as many petition supporters also chimed in. They said they are fed up with high electricity costs and they are concerned about the environment.
Mayor Dan H. Mylott has said he supported testing the wind power for use at the water plant.
Councilor Jesus “Jay” Cruz said there are too many variables to sort out during a special permit process.
Councilor Joel R. Kaddy said he was in favor of wind turbines in the community and told members he wanted to fast-track the process.
“I think it’s good for the city,” Mr. Lemay said after the meeting regarding the move to codify wind turbine specifications. “But I don’t see why my petition has to be put on hold.”
By M. Elizabeth Roman
17 October 2007
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