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Council OKs wind turbine ordinance  

FITCHBURG – The City Council last night approved an ordinance allowing wind turbines to be erected on residential property, but the Oak Hill Road couple whose plans to produce wind power sparked the debate blasted the legislation as overly restrictive.

Gregory Lemay said he was “disgusted” by the council’s quick vote on the petition, taken after a hearing in which numerous speakers urged the council to adopt more conservative language.

“We’re not going to generate wind power in Fitchburg,” Mr. Lemay said. He said the restrictive language adopted by the council was too prohibitive to function.

Mayor Lisa A. Wong, a proponent of alternative energy, said she was pleased to see an ordinance placed on the books, but said she would like to see it reviewed in six months to determine if any amendments are needed.

Mr. Lemay and his wife, Michelle, were denied permission by the Zoning Board of Appeals last fall to erect a 120-foot wind turbine behind their home on Oak Hill Road. Many councilors had urged the ZBA to hold off on approving the Lemays’ petition when a wind turbine ordinance was in the works.

Critics of the ordinance said they were concerned about property values for turbine neighbors, as well as noise and the effect of ice being thrown from turbine blades.

Ronald Feldman of Oak Hill Road urged conservative regulations.

“We’re diving into the deep end not knowing whether or not we can swim,” Mr. Feldman said, offering up an analogy that was continued by several other critics.

“I’d like to see us put our toe in the water before we even jump into the shallow end,” Kelly Hertel of Caswell Road said later.

While the original language suggested a buffer zone of 1.1 times the turbine’s height from any neighboring inhabited structure, councilors voted to amend that restriction to 1.5 times the turbine’s height from any neighboring property line.

“It’s about people’s rights,” Councilor Joel R. Kaddy said.

Joseph Byrne of Blossom Street said the restrictions were too limiting. He has 2 acres, but would not have the room to install a turbine on his land and meet the setback requirements in the ordinance.

Mr. Lemay said the structures are engineered to fall within a 40-foot radius, while his neighbors have 80-foot trees on his property line that could fall on his house at any time.

Planning Coordinator David J. Streb and ZBA member Michael McLaughlin urged the council to vote on the ordinance.

“I would really like to see the city adopt a wind ordinance of some kind tonight,” Mr. Streb said. “The devil is obviously in the details.”

He suggested people would be more comfortable with the advent of wind power once structures are up and running.

Mr. McLaughlin said the city should take a leading role and approve the ordinance.

“Let’s embrace some change and start to be a leader,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

The amended language – with the larger setbacks – was adopted and the ordinance was approved by a unanimous council vote.

Mr. Lemay, who became a licensed dealer of wind turbines during his efforts to get the ordinance passed, said after the meeting he was upset with how quickly the council voted and was skeptical any turbines will be erected without the rules being loosened.

By Matthew Bruun

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

8 February 2008

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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