“All this may be a moot point,” Bourne Planning Board Chairman Chris Farrell said at the end of a hearing in which Buzzards Bay and Bournedale residents offered a citizen-petition warrant article to amend the town’s wind energy conversion bylaw. “We’ll see what the (new) regulations are from the Cape Cod Commission.”
Farrell’s sentiment wrapped up the hearing. He was broadly referring to future turbine review in town, but his sentiment would not be applied to the controversial New Generation Wind turbines proposed off Route 25 and Scenic Highway.
The context is confusing. Some board members after the hearing essentially thought local zoning might be trumped by pending Cape commission turbine regulations; that the new rules would apply to New Generation Wind. This, however, would not be the case.
The local wind-farm proposal would instead be governed by an amended zoning bylaw, however, if it is approved by voters at the May 2 Bourne Annual Town Meeting.
New Generation representatives told planners last week the citizen petition item headed to the warrant would make turbine placement in town impossible. This sentiment would apply to future proposals, not New Generation’s.
Petition supporters said they are merely trying to “strengthen” the zoning bylaw; which was written two years ago without any citizen input and revised last year, again with no assistance from townspeople.
New Generation proposes seven turbines off Route 25 and Scenic Highway, next to residential areas. The group withdrew its special permit application two weeks ago. It refilled last Friday and will now be afforded a new review sub-committee at the Cape commission.
The aroused Bourne citizens, meanwhile, see New Generation’s plan as a threat to their neighborhoods. They propose turbine setbacks of 10 times the diameter of the rotating blades, rather than staying with the minimum zoning bylaw requirement of 500 feet from the edge of the abutting property, plus 10 feet.
Bourne planning consultant Philip Herr agreed the petition “makes greater restrictions” on turbine proposals than the bylaw.
“This encompasses very complicated technical questions on which well-qualified people can differ,” Herr said. “There is not a wrong answer. There are shades of gray as a matter of policy implications for turbines.
“Acoustic standards vary by community,” he said. “I think it’s imperative there be experienced technical assistance from a non-adversarial position. It’s unfortunate that even-handed technical review and what’s going on with the commission are a little bit out of synch with what’s going on here. The (planning) board should have the benefit of commission work before changing the town bylaw. There needs to be a balancing process, but there is no time before town meeting. It would be unfortunate for the town to act on this (petition) without the benefit of that even-handed review process.”
Farrell acknowledged a “heated issue.” He said his board could ask for its own technical review of the citizen petition. “We’re going to have to study this,” he said. “It’s a lot to digest.”
Bourne planners were among the first in Massachusetts to write a zoning bylaw, seeking to govern private and commercial turbine proposals. New Generation is the first submittal for a land-based wind-farm in the state. It 495-foot structures would command Buzzards Bay and canal area vistas.
Town meeting approaches, and the elected planners will consider the citizen petition again April 14.
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