EASTHAM – Town meeting voters will consider two very different wind turbine bylaws this spring after selectmen and an ad hoc committee failed to reach a compromise.
Selectmen and the committee disagree on required setbacks and noise standards. On May 5, town meeting will decide between a bylaw proposed by selectmen and a separate petitioned article supported by the ad hoc wind turbine bylaw committee.
“The selectmen didn’t like what we came up with, so they wrote one of their own,” said Leslie-Ann Morse, chairwoman of the planning board who served on the ad hoc turbine bylaw committee.
Last year, the town proposed building four turbines on town-owned land in North Eastham. That created a firestorm of protest from abutters, and others, who challenged the town’s proposed bylaw, which would have allowed towers to be built 600 feet from dwellings. Abutters crafted their own standards, including setbacks of 1,200 feet.
Selectmen created the ad hoc committee to seek an acceptable compromise. The major sticking point with selectmen in the ad hoc committee’s proposed bylaw is a requirement that towers not be located any closer to private property than 1,000 feet or three times the height measured from the ground to blade tip, whichever is larger.
Selectmen said those restrictions would require over 90 acres of municipal land for an industrial-sized turbine.
“The key word is compromise,” said Selectman Martin McDonald. “They basically excluded Eastham from the benefits of wind turbines.”
Selectman David Schropfer said much of the committee’s work was preserved, but requirements on setback, noise, and shadows from turbine blades were too restrictive.
“The edits we made were largely to keep in line with what other towns around us had done,” said Schropfer. The committee used standards developed in other countries that couldn’t fit with the realities that exist on the Cape, he said.
“It wasn’t my ideal bylaw, but it was a product of political compromise,” said Andrew Wells, an abutter and ad hoc committee member.
In January, Wells gave selectmen a 50-page document to back up his committee’s proposals. It included research he compiled on noise, setbacks and the effects of flickering shadows from rotating blades.
“I approached it from a planning background of, my God, you want to put the equivalent of a 35-story building here,” Morse said, stressing that she was neutral, but wanted to see how it could be done in a relatively densely zoned town.
Morse said she wasn’t completely satisfied herself with the bylaw that came from the group.
“It was something that ultimately survived” the intense debate between members of Eastham’s now-disbanded energy committee and the abutters.
The planning board has scheduled a public hearing at 5 p.m. Wednesday at town hall.
HOW DO THE BYLAWS DIFFER?
Ad hoc committee: A turbine with a blade tip of 400 feet would require a 1,200 foot setback
Selectmen: A turbine with a blade tip of 400 feet would require 600 foot setback.
Ad hoc committee: 5 decibels at property line above normal sould levels and at residence. Sets specific requirements for noise level testing.
Selectmen: 10 decibels at property line and 5 decibels at the residence. Requires noise report by a qualified acoustical engineer. Planning board can require additional testing.
Shadow flicker, when a property is subjected to shadows from a turbine backlit by the sun.
Ad hoc committee: They want to use a computer model that assumes there will be 365 days a year of sunlight.
Selectmen: They want the computer model to account for cloudy days.
By Doug Fraser
20 March 2008
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