SCITUATE – The moratorium on wind turbines is lifted, but the future of a proposed structure at Sunset Orchard is uncertain.
The Town Council lifted the eight-month-long ban Thursday, Dec. 9, at its regular meeting.
The council in November had rejected a proposed ordinance to regulate wind turbines, but adopted a 36-foot height limit for the emerging alternative energy technology.
The height limit does not apply to the Sunset Orchard project where owner Gloria McConville and Wind Energy Development LLC of North Kingstown have applied for a zoning dimensional variance and a special permit to erect a 426-foot-tall wind turbine at 244 Gleaner Chapel Road. The Sunset Orchard project is grandfathered under the ordinance in place when its application was submitted prior to the moratorium.
McConville hoped the wind turbine would produce enough electricity to power the orchard and residential needs on the property with enough left over as income to pay taxes and expenses for the farm.
Now that the way to build the wind turbine is minus a few regulatory obstacles, McConville and her family are unsure of the future of the project.
Neighbors have objected to the wind turbine, contending the structure would be too tall, that shadow flicker cast by the turbine blades could trigger seizures for some people, and that property values would be adversely affected.
Supporters see the turbine as a necessary step toward generating green energy (the electricity would power the farm with the remaining amount sold to National Grid) and an environmentally conscious way to keep a farm in operation.
McConville told The Valley Breeze & Observer, “I am extremely disappointed in the council’s rejection of the ordinance that took the (Wind Turbine Study) Commission five months to work on. At this time, I have no comment about the future of the project.”
McConville’s daughter, Gail Chatfield, who with other family members run the orchard, told the newspaper the family will stay in the orchard business.
“We are hoping to keep the business going,” she said. “We are planning a pumpkin patch and a corn maze to attract more business so we can continue to afford to operate.
“Our plans are uncertain at this time, but we do plan on keeping this place going. We will keep this farm as long as we can.”
The wind turbine controversy has spawned a complaint to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission by McConville against Town Council member John F. Winfield Jr., who lives near the orchard.
McConville alleged Winfield did not recuse himself from council deliberations about the wind turbine proposed despite the fact that it abuts his property, a spokesman for the agency said. The investigation is ongoing.
McConville alleged in a complaint filed July 26:
* On April 22, Linda Winfield, the councilman’s wife, voiced her opposition to a wind turbine process to the council and Councilman Winfield did not recuse himself.
* On April 29 after publicly expressing his opposition to the McConville proposal and after his wife, Linda, opposed the matter Winfield voted in favor of a moratorium on wind turbines until an ordinance is drafted.
* Councilman Winfield sits on the Wind Turbine Study Commission, which is drafting a wind turbine ordinance for the town, and did not recuse himself when he appeared before the commission on June 2, June 16 and July 21.
On Thursday night, Winfield recused himself from the council deliberations, but then sat in the audience and raised questions about the council’s action, contending that a second reading of the rescission of the moratorium might be needed.
Chatfield said her mother intends to file another complaint against Winfield, alleging conflict of interest based on his participation in Thursday night’s deliberations.
Town Solicitor David D’Agostino told Winfield that a second reading was not required by law for the council’s action to become official.
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