Winds of change are in the air.
North Kingstown town officials are requesting the General Assembly invoke a statewide one-year moratorium on all land-based wind turbines more than 50 feet tall. It’s the first official move the town has made since instating a six-month moratorium on wind turbines in North Kingstown on Jan. 10.
Last Friday, Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan, Town Manger Michael Embury, Town Solicitor Don Maroney and Planning Director Jon Reiner met to address the recent moratorium and subsequent actions by the town. The conclusion: North Kingstown shouldn’t have to go it alone.
“We started to think and look at other communities that are going through the same thing right now,” said Embury. “Why should we all be doing this individually?”
According to Friday’s press release on the matter, the town believes the one-year moratorium will allow the Statewide Planning Program to complete its Wind Energy Facility Siting Advisory Group to assess turbines across the state. The group will have its first meeting this month and intends to develop guidelines and standards for siting wind energy systems by “summer 2011.”
“It doesn’t make sense for separate communities to have separate requirements without state requirements,” said Embury. “We’re not the last one who are going to deal with this.”
Though towns like Charlestown, Exeter, Middletown and Johnston are grappling with similar issues, it’s North Kingstown that’s been making waves statewide. Residents have come out in droves in opposition to two wind turbines in town, one approved for North Kingstown Green off Ten Rod Road and another proposed on the Stamp Farm property on South County Trail. Both turbines would stand 427-feet tall, as tall as Providence’s Bank of America building and dwarfing Portsmouth High Schools turbine by nearly 100 feet.
Jeff Zucchi, who heads the group No Residential Wind NK and has voiced his opposition to both turbines and the town’s new wind energy ordinance, believes the request is a step in the right direction.
“From my standpoint, it was a stroke of genius on their part,” said Zucchi. “We don’t believe that any town, regardless of the size, has to go through the rigmarole to educate ourselves on this thing.”
Another opponent to the town ordinance is state Rep. Larry Ehrhardt, a member of the House Alternative Energy Subcommittee, who initially suggested working with his colleagues at the General Assembly and with the aid of Statewide Planning to remedy the situation. In last week’s release, town officials said they would “back” Ehrhardt’s efforts in the General Assembly.
“The message coming thorugh loud and clear throughout the state is that zoning boards, planning commissions and town councils are saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, time out. Let’s figure this all out,”” said Ehrhardt. “This problem is far bigger and more complex than anyone had anticipated.”
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