Town Planners and area residents got an up-close look Friday morning at the proposed site for the latest wind-powered generator seeking approval from the town, also the largest wind turbine project yet proposed in Middletown.
A group of about 15 residents and town officials toured the property Friday, parking along Wolcott Avenue and then making the walk down the farm’s tree-lined dirt access road about 100 yards before accessing the field’s northern edge, protected by electric fences for farm animals.
The site visit revealed a gently sloping open pasture where sheep currently graze, bordered by woodlands that separate the farm from the adjacent Wolcott Road neighborhood, and views of Sachuest Point 119 feet below to the southeast and St. George’s School campus to the southwest.
Luise Strauss, who owns the property and is applying for the special use permit to construct the wind-powered electrical generator, said the property has been in her husband’s family since 1928.
“We’ve tried to think of something where we could continue to use the farm as is and this (proposed wind turbine) would be a benign use of the land,” explained Strauss Friday morning. “You can use the land right up to it and right underneath it as farm land.”
Planning Board members who toured the property Friday also answered some residents’ and neighbors’ questions about the 294-foot wind turbine proposal’s approval process and timeline, but amongst themselves declined to deliberate or discuss the issue again until the board’s next meeting in September.
Residents who joined the tour represented all sides of the issue, from nearby residents vehemently opposed for concerns of visual aesthetics, height, flicker and sound concerns, to those who enthusiastically supported more “cleaner” alternative energy in Middletown and using farmland without introducing more development in town. Also along for the site visit were the just-plain-curious and others holding out judgement until they’d seen and heard everything related to both sides of the argument.
If approved as-is, the 294-foot structure would sit atop a 14-acre area located on the northwest corner of Strauss’ sheep farm at 485 Paradise Avenue, a gently sloping hillside about 119 feet above sea level.
Three other wind turbines are currently operational in Middletown: two 55-foot structures on private farms on Mitchell’s Lane and another at the Aquidneck Corporate Park off Valley Road.
Besides the wind turbine itself, construction would include a graded but unpaved access road, a small 4-foot-by-4-foot-by-3-foot utility building to house the turbine’s power transformer, a security fence around both, and electrical connections below ground. To comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, a blinking red light would be located at the top.
The property surrounding the wind turbine would continue to be used as a small farm for Suffolk/Dorper/Dorset sheep.
Strauss has indicated through her construction proposal that the wind turbine’s primary use would be to supply power for her sheep farm. However, that power also may be sold to the farm’s neighbor, St. George’s boarding school, as well as National Grid, the state’s main power and utility provider. However, her attorney, Richard A. Sherman, has stated that so far neither shared usage proposal has been negotiated with either party. “If the special use permit is granted, then we’ll pursue those possibilities, but she’s the owner, she’s the applicant,” Sherman said in a previous interview. “This is Mrs. Strauss’ project and nobody else’s.”
Plans call for the town to grant a special use permit to build a wind turbine no larger than 1 megawatt in size, of a non-reflective white color, and no larger than 294 feet in height, which includes the span of either a two- or three-blade turbine. Those criteria meet FAA restrictions for low-flying aircraft, according to the proposal.
Friday’s site visit, technically a public meeting of the town Planning Board, is one of several hurdles the project needs to clear before an expected vote to come before the town Zoning Board sometime in October.
Last week, the project applicant presented publically for the first time to the Planning Board, which shall weigh the project in consideration of the town’s Comprehensive Master Plan when submitting an advisory opinion to the Zoning Board of Review for the project’s Special Use Permit.
The public will be able to weigh in on the project at the next meeting of the Planning Board currently scheduled for September 8, 2010.
Residents who wish to view a copy of the proposal may contact the Middletown Planning Department.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding