ESSEX – With high-profile wind power projects springing up across the state and region, the Planning Board has proposed a new bylaw that would allow small turbines in town, but prohibit large windmills or commercial wind farms.
The bylaw, which planners submitted for this year’s annual Town Meeting, was spurred by a recent proposal from a Tree Hill landowner to build a turbine, which was ultimately approved. But the situation revealed to local officials that existing building regulations were not sufficient to deal with wind power projects.
“When we had an application for a permit, we had no guidelines for dealing with it,” Planning Board member Andrew St. John said yesterday. “The building inspector did not have a review process for it.”
The bylaw would bar turbines more than 150 feet high, such as the 240-foot windmill operating in Hull or the 300-foot turbine Manchester Athletic Club is considering building on its property off School Street in Manchester. It would also prohibit installation of more than one turbine per acre, making it practically impossible for a developer to build a commercial wind farm.
Manchester residents are also considering a bylaw governing wind turbines, sparked by the Manchester Athletic Club proposal, at their annual Town Meeting.
Unlike that bylaw, which allows windmills in one zoning district within the town, the Essex bylaw would set standards for wind projects throughout the town, which does not have separate zoning districts.
“With the town having rejected zoning districts on two previous occasions, we made this townwide,” St. John said.
Other provisions in the bylaw would prohibit turbines that produce more than 50 decibels of noise, bar external lighting and signs from being placed on the towers and require any abandoned turbine to be dismantled at the owner’s expense.
The bylaw also requires each windmill to be placed 1.25 times its height away from the nearest property line. Similar setback requirements in the Manchester bylaw have drawn criticism from Manchester Athletic Club.
The Planning Board last week held a public hearing on the bylaw and has been refining the article’s language before submitting it to selectmen, who are scheduled to finalize the Town Meeting warrant on Monday.
“There is an obvious need for alternative sources of energy in our society,” St. John said. “Given that we live in a windy part of the world, this is a natural.”
By Patrick Anderson
7 March 2008
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