Harvard residents may eventually have the chance to – as the Scottish folk singer Donovan put it – catch the wind.
But not just yet.
Voters at the annual town meeting yesterday rejected a citizen’s petition that would have allowed residents to erect wind turbines for individual use.
The town’s planning board, however, plans to present a similar measure either by the fall or next spring. The board had been crafting a wind energy bylaw, but did not complete it in time for Town Meeting.
“There is a real sense that the town is behind this,” said Mary Essary, chairwoman of the Planning Board. “Clearly, we’re going to pursue this.”
Supporters of the petition showed disappointment, but said their overall goal was to bring the issue into a public forum.
The provision dictated, among other things, that any tower taller than 140 feet would require a special permit from the Planning Board; that setbacks from property lines would have to be equal to the height of the turbine; and that the noise generated by the windmill could not be greater than a decibel level roughly equivalent to the sound made by rustling leaves.
The question required a two-thirds’ majority to pass. Moderator David Westerling did not tally the vote – residents waved yellow slips of paper – but the split appeared to be roughly half and half.
Voters who got up to ask questions during the debate before the vote suggested that the Planning Board craft a wind energy bylaw based on a similar bylaw for cellphone towers. Others expressed concerns about negative effects on their view.
Some contended that wind energy is a trade-off. Dan Jones, who lives on Bolton Road, said he looks out on land that is natural and pristine. “Windmills are not natural and pristine,” he said, but, neither are houses, for that matter. “It’s a critical step toward a sustainable future,” he said of the bylaw, garnering applause.
The proposed bylaw arose from two separate applications over the past year by resident John Sweeney and farmer Steve Nigzus, who wished to construct windmills on their properties.
Local officials denied both requests, but Nigzus’s denial was overturned by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which ruled that a turbine was an agricultural exemption.
In response to the requests, the Planning Board appointed a task force in October.
Ericsson Broadbent, a member of the wind power committee, said it is crucial for municipalities to begin a dialogue on sustainable energy.
“No, we’re not going to save the world with this bylaw, but, yes, we’re taking a step in the right direction,” he said.
By Taryn Plumb
30 March 2008
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