Monday’s Town Council meeting drew nearly 100 residents to voice concerns over a proposed wind turbine at Stamp Farm on South County Trail.
Though the matter wasn’t on the North Kingstown Town Council’s agenda, nearly 100 residents came out to Monday night’s meeting to voice concerns over the reapplication of a 427-foot wind turbine at Stamp Farm on South County Trail.
“We can’t take these down once they’re there,” said Jeff Zucchi, a Rollingwood Drive resident. “You can’t unring the bell.”
The North Kingstown Zoning Board originally denied the proposal in August after deciding that the turbine’s size was too excessive for the proposed area. However, following the Town Council’s adoption of a new wind energy ordinance at its Sept. 27 meeting, Carol Stamp and developer Wind Energy Development LLC are having another go at the proposal.
Zucchi, who said he represents 400 to 500 concerned residents and abutters, called for a “moratorium on all wind turbines of all shapes and sizes.” He also asked for the council to stop the already-approved turbine at the residence of Mark DePasquale, CEO of Wind Energy Development LLC.
The group of residents applauded loudly for each other, even giving high-fives to speakers as they left the podium during the 50-minute-long public comment. Of the dozen or so residents who spoke during public comment, many displayed concern and over the town’s new wind energy ordinance.
The new ordinance, intended to encourage wind energy in town, does not set any height restrictions on wind energy systems, and establishes setbacks – the distance from a wind turbine to residences, other structures, roads, etc. – at two-thirds of the height from the base of the turbine to the tip of the highest blade.
Zucchi also pointed out that both the manufacturer of the turbine in question, Vestas, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management have suggested setbacks that are much stricter than what the town has implemented. In its 2009 Terrestrial Wind Turbine Siting Report, RI DEM recommended a setback 1.5 times the height of a structure. For the Stamp Farm turbine, this would mean a setback of about 640 feet. Following the town’s wind energy ordinance, the setback for this particular turbine would be approximately 284 feet.
Other concerns addressed at the meeting were how the turbine would distract drivers on an already busy stretch of road on Route 2 and its impact on property taxes in the area.
Joel Essex, of 288 S. County Trail, spoke on behalf of his brother Josh, who suffers from brain cancer. According to Essex, the proposed turbine would sit directly across the street from their home and the shadow flicker caused by it could prove detrimental to his brother’s health. Essex brought letters from his brother’s doctor who said, due to Josh’s breath-through seizures, he believed it would be in the “patient’s best interest to not build the turbine by his home.”
For state Rep. Laurence Ehrhardt, the town’s battle over its wind energy ordinance is a byproduct of Rhode Island State Planning Council’s failure to address the issue. According to Ehrhardt, the council was charged with creating standards and guidelines for the location of renewable energy resources and facilities by July 1, 2007 under state law.
“Statewide planning, for one reason or another, has not done that job,” Ehrhardt said to the council. “I don’t know why. Because of the failure of state planning to take the lead in that, the job by default seems to be turned over to fine people like yourselves.”
Ehrhardt indicated that action might be taken at the state level in the coming legislative session to address wind energy ordinances.
DePasquale was in attendance at the meeting, but did not comment publicly. Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan told the audience following public comment that the council would take their concerns into consideration going forward.
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