Buzzards Bay and Bournedale residents, who would live in the shadows of the New Generation Wind turbines proposed off Scenic Highway, have submitted a citizen-petition article to the May Town Meeting warrant that could reshape formal review of the controversial wind-farm proposal and perhaps kill it.
The group seeks to amend the town’s Wind Energy Systems bylaw, which would guide Bourne Planning Board scrutiny of the New Generation proposal should it pass muster at the Cape Cod Commission.
Town Planner Coreen Moore said it was commonly thought that New Generation proponents Tudor Ingersoll and Sam Lorusso would not be held to new review standards, even those in an amended zoning article, because the wind-farm application had been submitted in 2009.
“That’s not right,” Moore said. “State law says any project must have a permit in hand not to be affected by a change in the zoning bylaw. Any applications are not protected. This project does not have a permit.”
Moore says there is wrinkle, however, in this interpretation of the law. She said New Generation Wind might have some legal recourse because after it submitted its wind-farm application to the town, the proposal went to the Cape commission for review.
Without that level of added review, she said, New Generation could possibly have secured a construction permit for the seven proposed turbines by now.
The citizen-petition article comes with about 50 signatures from people living on both sides of the proposed wind complex, from Nightingale Pond to Bournedale Road and beyond.
The 495-foot turbines would dominate the vista north of the canal, and selectmen say the location is inappropriate; especially because it is so close to homes and land that could accommodate even more residences.
Science for and against
Town review of the proposal falls to the planning board. Chairman Chris Farrell, discussing another matter last week, said opponents of any project “can go online and get all the supporting science they want for a project.” Project supporters can do the same thing, he added.
For now, Moore said the New Generation Wind proposal remains at the commission. She has for the third time assured agency staffers the Ingersoll-Lorusso proposal complies with local zoning, the Bourneale district of critical planning concern and the Bourne Local Comprehensive Plan.
“It complies with zoning and setbacks,” she said. “But if the citizens’ amendment of the bylaw prevails at town meeting, the project would not comply.
Moore said transportation issues have also arisen with the proposal, involving access to turbine sites. But the most serious challenge to the project at this point seems to involve the turbines’ so-called fall zones.
“From any residential use or zoned parcels, the turbine must be at least 10 times the rotor capacity away,” she said. “You couldn’t have an engineered-designed fall zone.”
What is next?
The town’s revised wind energy conversion bylaw has never been applied to a proposal. Before its revision, however, the planning board used it to reject a turbine proposal for homeowners in Pocasset. The town was upheld upon a court appeal.
The citizen petition article seeks an amendment to the bylaw in areas of height restrictions, setbacks, noise and shadow flicker.
Moore said Ingersoll and his legal counsel are aware of the article, its threat to the project and the interpretation of state law that says a revised town bylaw could be applied to wind farm plans.
She said there is no date yet for a commission decision on New Generation Wind. Bourne’s representative to the agency, Michael Blanton, sits on the sub-committee reviewing the proposal.
The agency could approve the proposal, reject it or amend it to a point that what was submitted for review is vastly different from what is finally approved. There has been little – if any – nuance in the commission’s public hearings to date on the turbines. There are opponents and proponents; and selectmen who do not like the location.
Planning board review of the article begins March 10 at 7 p.m. in the Community Center. There has been no public board discussion to date about the warrant item. Members spent two years with Moore, drafting the bylaw and another six months with former planning consultant Philip Herr of Herr Associates to revise it.
A Massachusetts first
The New Generation plan is the first proposed land-based wind farm in Massachusetts. The Ingersoll-Lorusso wind-farm tract measures about 400 acres in a floating-technology zone. Turbines aside, it could also prove suitable for homebuilding.
“How many homes?” Moore said. “A lot. But that would depend on a lot of variables; such as cluster development on smaller lots with land set aside suitably elsewhere. This (turbine) project would have less of an impact than homes.”
The turbines are separate from a proposed green-technology campus proposed by Ingersoll in the area and supported by the Bourne Financial Development Corp. Access would be from Scenic Highway past the Heather Hill Road intersection.
Moore said the tech campus “would stand on its own as a project subject to review,” but it has its own access hurdles.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding