LYNN – The Water and Sewer Commission wants city planners putting finishing touches on a major waterfront rezoning proposal to allow a 254-foot tall wind turbine to be built off Circle Avenue next to the sewage treatment plant.
The Zoning Board of Appeals is slated to review the request on Sept. 21, tentatively the same date the City Council has set down to review the waterfront master plan outlining restrictions governing what can or cannot be built along the Lynnway.
The turbine and its giant blades will convert wind energy into electricity that will be used solely by Water and Sewer. Treatment plant operations director Robert Tina estimates wind energy will cut the commission’s $1.7 million annual electricity bill by one-quarter to one-third.
The board in 2005 gave Water and Sewer permission under current waterfront zoning restrictions to build the turbine. The master plan does not include zoning changes allowing the windmill-like structure’s construction so the board will be asked in two weeks to grant a variance for the turbine from restrictions set in the master plan.
Tina said zoning approval is the last permitting hurdle the turbine faces before Water and Sewer solicits contractor bids for the $2.1 million project.
“We’ve received all federal and state permits,” Tina said.
With its giant carbon fiber blades and tapered towers, windmills are cropping up across the state. Salem is reviewing proposals to build two and one constructed in Chelsea is visible from Lynn, roughly the same size as the proposed turbine.
Water and Sewer plans to pay for the turbine with a $600,000 state grant already secured by the commission and by borrowing the balance of the project’s cost from a low-interest state loan fund.
“The interest rate is two percent and we are one of only three communities to receive a grant,” Tina said.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy supports the turbine’s construction, telling the Item a month ago the structure represents a “sleek and aesthetic” addition to the waterfront. Planners and city consultants who have been working for three years crafting a waterfront plan envision land running from the Saugus River to the end of Washington Street becoming sites for a variety of residential and commercial projects.
The plan, according to city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan, builds on a state recommendation for the city to rethink zoning to encompass the area bound by the railroad tracks cutting through West Lynn down past the Lynnway to the harbor’s edge.
The plan includes a designated port area and a tidal overlay zone intended in part to restrict building heights to address light and shadow concerns. It also eases City Council special permitting requirements to allow development.
“You could just go in and get a building permit. It’s a big step,” Donovan said.
Providing it receives zoning board approval, the turbine could be the waterfront plan’s unintended but initial manifestation. Tina said contractors will be selected after approval is received and construction could begin sometime in 2011’s first half.
The work will take about a year. Contractors will bore 150 foot-deep pilings into loose soil along the waterfront and build a concrete pad to provide a stable footing for the turbine. Tina estimated the turbine, once in operation, will eliminate 2,000 tons of carbon emissions annually. The turbine’s blades would be turned by winds averaging 13 miles an hour annually.
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