NEWBURYPORT – Almost one year after the City Council passed its ordinance regulating the creation of wind turbines in the city, it heard feedback last night from those most affected.
Councilors agreed to re-examine the ordinance and possibly make changes after neighbors in the Back Bay neighborhood voiced their opposition to the 292-foot-tall turbine put up by business owner Mark Richey on his woodworking facility site in the industrial park. That turbine went up in January.
Armed with materials, research and drafted changes to the ordinance, neighbors offered suggestions on how the document could be altered – the current setbacks need to be changed, they said, and to share what it’s like to live in the turbine’s shadow each day.
The City Council passed an ordinance last May to encourage the use of the alternative power source for businesses in the city and to guide how they are built.
The 13-page document detailed the guidelines for turbine construction: the design, the environmental standards, the locations and its distance from residential zones – a 300-foot buffer. The ordinance is only for construction of turbines in industrial zones, not residential.
A special permit is required to build one.
Neighbors urged councilors to change the document to include a stipulation stating homes that would be affected by the turbine’s noise and flicker would receive written notification from the city about the proposal and the date of a public hearing for the application. They also asked councilors to require that the city hire its own experts to look into an application rather than just using the expert testimony hired by the applicant.
“Our lives will never be the same,” Michelle Stanton, 10 Hill St., told the councilors during the meeting at City Hall.
The decision to grant Richey a special permit to build the turbine was “completely wrong” and “selfish,” Stanton said. The turbine does not benefit Newburyport as a whole, but one individual, she said.
The turbine sounds like a “jet engine” and creates a flicker, or shadow effect, on her house along with the bright flashing red light that bounces off the blades, Stanton said. She had to move her bed to another corner of the room and she has to keep her television on at night to drown out the noise from the turbine, Stanton told councilors.
“A lot of our lives have been ruined by this,” she said.
The character of the neighborhood has changed, Judy LaCroix told the councilors. The setbacks for turbine should be a half mile, she said, and something should be included in the document about eye level, she said.
“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “This has really affected this neighborhood. The flavor of that neighborhood has really changed.”
Sheila Twomey, 16 Hill St., who spoke along with her husband and daughter, said the turbine’s “strobe light” effect makes it feel like her house is on an airline strip.
“An entire neighborhood was not represented,” she said of the Richey decision. “Three hundred feet is not enough.”
“I think it’s just too close,” said Charles Griffin, 12 Auburn St.
If more turbines went up in the city, it would be a “sad day” for Newburyport, Griffin said, and they would dominate the city.
Members of the city’s Energy Advisory Committee, a group formed by Mayor John Moak last year, offered assistance to councilors as they review the document. Chairman Bob Miller said the panel is made up of individuals who work in the alternative energy field and have an interest in renewable energy. The committee supports responsible placement of turbines, he said.
“We would like to offer that expertise to the City Council,” Miller said.
Other citizens offered support for the document, saying they were proud of the council for passing the ordinance and adding they would like to see more turbines go up in the city.
“Every time I go by it … for me, it brings me happiness,” Jim Stiles said.
The industrial park is the perfect location for turbines, Energy Advisory Committee member Cliff Goudey said.
“I would like to see more,” he said.
Niall Robinson urged the City Council to exercise caution on the setbacks. If it is changed to a half mile, he wondered if there would be any available locations in Newburyport for turbines. The city is on the ocean and is an area with a lot of wind, he said. “I think we should use it.”
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