Appleton – A small group of residents asked the planning board to consider a less restrictive wind energy ordinance for small, residential turbines and a more restrictive plan for larger, commercial projects.
The Appleton Planning Board held a public hearing March 28 for residents to comment on a wind energy ordinance proposal set to be voted on at the June town meeting. Four residents attended the hour-and-a-half meeting.
The ordinance defines four classes of turbines, reserving tougher restrictions for turbines that generate more than 100 kilowatts and are more than 80 feet tall, and projects with more than one turbine. The ordinance would not effect turbines already built in town, unless the homeowner wishes to make changes or updates.
The ordinance calls for a setback of the horizontal distance equivalent to 150 percent of the turbine height from property boundaries, public and private rights of way, and overhead utility lines that are not part of the facility. For example, an 80-foot tower would have a 120-foot setback or a 400-foot tower would have a 600-foot setback. The ordinance also calls for specific requirements for sound level and shadow flicker.
Planning board members said the point of the setback was so if a turbine fell over, it would not land on a neighboring property.
Residents thought the setback was too harsh for a homeowner or farm with one turbine. They suggested a 25-foot setback from a neighboring property for an 80-foot turbine. Residents thought the way the ordinance is currently proposed would restrict someone with a one-acre property from erecting a turbine.
“I’m not comfortable with someone’s tower falling in my yard,” said planning board member David Kelley.
After much discussion, they suggested changing the setback for a residential tower to a horizontal distance equivalent to 100 percent of the turbine height, instead of 150 percent.
Planning board members said they would research what other towns have for setbacks for commercial projects.
Board members said additional meetings will be organized to discuss the proposal.
Waldo County projects
Drawing a clear distinction between industrial-scale wind energy installations and smaller turbines, Unity residents enacted different sets of regulations for the two types of turbines during their annual town meeting March 26.
The ordinance establishes a setback of one mile from any large-turbine installation. However, the ordinance makes a provision for anyone who doesn’t object to living within a mile of a turbine, or having property that close, to sign a mitigation waiver.
Anyone interested in erecting a smaller turbine would need to get a regular building permit, and then submit a little additional information – essentially, documents showing where the turbine would be located in relation to abutting properties, and a record showing the applicant had notified the owners of those abutting properties.
The Waldo County towns of Jackson, Dixmont and Thorndike wind ordinances also impose one-mile setbacks from the nearest residence. Montville and Burnham also have wind energy ordinances in place.
In 2008, three 400-foot commercial turbines were erected in Freedom.
In Knox County, three 250-foot commercial turbines were built on Vinalhaven in 2009.
At the June 2010 town meeting, Union residents voted down a wind ordinance.
In 2009, Waldoboro passed an ordinance to allow small, residential wind projects. They do not have a commercial wind ordinance, but height restrictions are addressed in the land use ordinance.
Rockport and Camden have been discussing wind ordinances, but have yet to be presented for a vote.
To view Appleton’s draft ordinance, go to appleton.maine.gov/pdfs/windpower%20ord%20draft.pdf.
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