SCITUATE – The Town Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the high school auditorium at 7 p.m. on a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance to regulate wind turbines.
Although, a several month effort to write an amendment was sparked by a proposal to build a structure at Sunset Orchards apple farm, the council notice for the hearing specifically rules the project beyond the bounds of ordinance amendment hearing.
Gloria McConville, owner of the orchard at 244 Gleaner Chapel Road, proposes erecting a $7 million wind turbine as tall as a small skyscraper. Wind Energy Development LLC of North Kingstown and McConville asked the Zoning Board for a special use permit and a dimensional variance. The town limits a structure in the rural residential zone where the farm is located to 36 feet in height. The wind turbine would stand 492 feet, about as tall as the Bank of America Building in downtown Providence.
Some neighbors support the proposal. However, many others oppose it, contending the structure would obstruct the landscape by its height, depreciate abutting properties, and may cause health concerns as the flicker from its blades could trigger seizures for some nearby residents.
The petitioners said the electricity generated by the turbine would not only power the farm’s business operations and household needs, but provide income for McConville to pay taxes on the property when the unused electricity is sold to National Grid.
An ancillary issue developed when McConville filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Ethics Commission against Town Council member John F. Winfield Jr., alleging Winfield Jr.’s failure to recuse himself from council deliberations about a wind turbine proposed in an orchard that abuts his property and his serving on the Wind Turbine Study Commission that drafted the proposed wind turbine ordinance amendment places him in conflict of interest, particularly when he failed to recuse himself when he appeared before the commission on June 2, June 16 and July 21.
A spokesman for the Ethics Commission told The Valley Breeze & Observer, Oct. 5, that the agency’s investigation is continuing.
That backdrop will be in place in the high school auditorium when the council convenes its hearing.
The amendment would establish siting requirements and criteria for wind turbines. Currently, a moratorium on wind turbines is in place in Scituate until April 29, 2011.
The zoning amendment will apply to any new application for a wind turbine and establishes siting criteria, which are largely performance-based. The amendment will amend the Zoning Use Tables to allow for wind turbines in all zoning districts by a Special Use Permit application filed with the Zoning Board of Review.
Copies of the Zoning Amendment are available for public inspection at Town Hall, 195 Danielson Pike during regular business hours, or on the town’s Web site, www.scituateri.org .
Among the application requirements are:
* A description of the proposed wind energy facility that includes the number and aggregate generating capacity of all wind turbines, the turbine height and manufacturer’s specifications.
* Site plan showing the proposed location of each wind turbine and associated facilities and all of the following features located within 500 feet or the fall zone, which ever is larger, of any wind turbine; parcel boundaries, required setbacks, topographic contour lines, roads, rights-of-way, overhead utility lines, buildings (identified by use), land cover, wetlands, streams, water bodies, areas proposed to be re-graded or cleared of vegetation, the location and average height of tree cover to be retained and the location, variety, planting height and mature height of proposed trees, if any.
* Complete description of emergency and normal shutdown procedures.
* Photographs of existing conditions at the site. Sight line representations of each wind turbine from the nearest occupied building and from abutting properties location within 500 feet of the wind turbine.
* Sound level analysis, and shadow flicker analysis prepared by a qualified engineer. Any other relevant studies, reports, certifications and approvals as maybe reasonably requested by the Zoning Board of Review to ensure compliance.
Included among the proposed general standards are:
* The minimum fall zone shall be 150 percent of the height of the tower, plus one rotor length, or the manufacturer’s recommendation, whichever is greater. The minimum fall zone and safety setback shall be wholly contained within the applicant’s property.
* Noise levels shall not exceed a 5 decibel increase over the ambient levels at the applicant’s property boundary lines. The ambient sound shall be determined with pre-application acoustical testing of the sound levels at the property boundary lines for a period of one year prior to the application, accounting for day and evening levels. If additional turbines are proposed on the same property in the future the previously installed turbine noise levels shall not be included to raise the background and ambient noise levels for the new turbine evaluation.
* Shadow flicker shall not exceed 10 hours per year. During the time of shadow flicker, the turbine shall be shut down. The presence of shadow flicker effect shall be determined with pre-application testing measured at the property boundary lines and at locations within 2,500 feet of the turbine for one year prior to the application.
* All wind turbines shall be equipped with an overspeed control system, breaking mechanism, and ice detection sensors (or heated blades).
* The applicant shall provide infrared thermal imaging of bird activities at the proposed siting location for one year pre-application, and the wind turbine shall not have an unreasonable adverse effect on birds, migratory patterns, rare, threatened, or endangered wildlife, significant wildlife habitat, rare, threatened or endangered plants and rare and exemplary plant communities. In making its determination the Zoning Board of Review shall consider pertinent application materials and the written comments and/or recommendations of the Scituate Conservation Commission or Land Trust.
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