LEICESTER— The Planning Board will recommend that voters at the annual town meeting May 5 pass over the proposed bylaw that would allow the erection of wind turbines in the community.
The board held its required public hearing on the proposal Tuesday night, after which members voted to recommend passing over the bylaw at the town meeting.
The action was hardly a surprise, since both Town Planner Micelle Buck and Planning Board chairman Debra Friedman had told selectmen Monday that the board had significant reservations about approving the measure without more thorough study.
Ms. Buck said Monday that the board had not had time to fully evaluate the draft bylaw, based on one approved in another community and submitted by selectmen as a model, and felt it would need revision and could not be adopted “as is.”
“The bylaw submitted appears to address only small private wind turbines for residential use,” Ms. Buck said. “If the intent is to allow larger commercial or municipal wind towers, the bylaw needs significant revision.”
The wind turbine issue actually originated with the idea of locating larger turbines in public areas, where they could provide low-cost energy for schools and other public buildings. It was believed that wind turbines along one section of Paxton Street could provide energy for Leicester’s High School, Middle School and Primary School, as well as the Senior Center. A survey is under way to determine which areas of town would provide the best sites for wind energy.
Ms. Buck said that before finalizing plans for wind turbines, the town must also consider such items as limiting the installation to certain districts, following FAA regulations because of the town’s proximity to Worcester Regional Airport, and visual impact.
“There was a public outcry over the visual impact of a proposed 150-foot cell tower on Carey Hill, and it was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 1998,” Ms. Buck said. “The ZBA decision held up in court. According to Joe Cove (the town’s lawyer) this decision is known nationwide as the ‘Leicester standard’ because the town successfully defended a denial of a cell tower based on visual impact. Since wind turbines are similar in appearance to cell towers, any wind turbine bylaw in Leicester should take this issue, and the court decision, into account.”
Both Ms. Buck and Mrs. Friedman said they think the details on the proposal could be worked out in time for the fall town meeting.
By Betty Lylestrom
18 April 2008
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