WEST BATH – The town Planning Board is recommending an ordinance that would allow residents to build windmills, but some in the town believe the proposed 55-foot height limitation for the structures is too restrictive.
Hill Road resident David Hennessey told the board Tuesday night he believes 55-foot-tall windmills in West Bath would be largely rendered useless by the town’s dense and tall tree growth.
“How many places on the coast of this town are open with no trees? Not many,” he said. “When the state of Maine is encouraging alternative power sources, the town shouldn’t be limiting the heights of these.”
But Planning Board Chairman Matthew Cashman ar-gued that the proposed ordinance “is just a starting point” that takes into consideration the viewpoints of some residents who might disapprove of the sight of windmills towering over the treeline.
The wind power ordinance will be reviewed by the Board of Selectmen Monday night at its 5:30 p.m. meeting, and then voted on by town residents at Wednesday’s annual town meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the West Bath School. The proposed language would allow only one “small wind energy conversion system” on each lot of at least one acre in size.
“We wanted to give it a height that people would vote for,” said board member Jay Paris at Tuesday night’s public hearing. “With my admittedly small straw poll, I asked some residents, ‘What if that windmill was between you and your view of the water?’ We feel people in town would be more likely to vote for it at 55 feet than if it said 120 feet.”
Resident Charlie Wing responded by suggesting an effort be made to educate the voters on “the importance of height” so they could understand why taller windmills might be necessary.
He described research comparing the effectiveness of windmills in open expanses versus wooded areas, like West Bath.
“You have to go up to 98 feet (tall) in a forested area to get the same power you’d generate at 33 feet in an open area,” he said.
But Steve Gardner, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said that while his board has yet to consider whether to endorse the measure, he believed the ordinance is “a good first step.”
The language, he said, would open the door for some residents to install the windmills at a reasonable height while allowing other residents to get comfortable with how they look and what sort of noise they make, among other things.
At the 2009 annual town meeting, Cashman said, adjustments could be made to the height limitation if it turned out to be necessary over the coming year.
“We urge you to vote for (the ordinance) and be a contributor toward making it better in the future,” said Paris.
4 June 2008
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