Three hours, 33 speakers, and no vote.
That was how Wednesday’s public hearing before a Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates subcommittee went, and the six-member standing committee on government regulations plans to continue its hearing on proposed wind turbine regulations next week.
Next Wednesday will be the final opportunity for the public to weigh in on the proposed changes to the county’s Regional Policy Plan (RPP) before the measure heads to the full Assembly for a vote.
The regulations would, if approved next week by the full Assembly, would apply to any proposed turbine greater than 65 feet in height (as measured from the base to the tip of the rotors at the apex of their rotation). The regulations would:
• Establish a “clear area” of 1.5 times the overall height of the turbine or the turbine manufacturer’s recommended minimum clear area, whichever is greater;
• Establish for all turbines of 660 kilowatt (KW) capacity or greater a noise setback of 10 times the diameter of the turbine blades, as measured from the base to the nearest receptor – defined as any occupied residential or commercial property – or residentially zoned parcel;
• Require all project applicants for projects of 660 KW capacity or greater to conduct a noise impact study and fund a CCC review of that study. Project applicants seeking a reduced noise setback may use the study results to prove minimal impacts to prove minimal impacts to receptors;
• Mandate project applicants prepare plan detailing reduced operating procedures, including full decommissioning of the turbine, to mitigate and address noise complaints by abutters;
• Require all applicants to conduct studies of shadow flicker on all receptors, and file a mitigation plan that limit shadow flickers events to less than 10 hours per year;
• Direct project applicants to provide to the CCC security to cover full decommissioning of a turbine. A turbine would be decommissioned automatically if a turbine is inoperative for more than 120 consecutive days;
• Outline visual mitigation requirements to reduce a turbine’s impact on local aesthetics, particularly in scenic areas and protected areas (i.e., historical districts).
Over the past several months, as the regulations have undergone revision by the Cape Cod Commission and public review, both sides of the contentious wind turbine issue have agreed only on the need for local control over wind energy development. Neither side has been wholly satisfied with the proposal itself, with wind energy supporters viewing the regulations as too strict and turbine foes regarding them as too forgiving.
Out of an audience of more than 50 county officials, local officials, and members of the public, 33 people spoke on the proposal, most of them from the Mid-Cape region. The majority of Wednesday’s speakers urged the Assembly to adopt the regulations in the interest of protecting homeowners.
“Let’s get on with it,” said Mark J. Cool of Falmouth, one of many residents who say they are suffering ill health effects due to living to close to Falmouth’s turbine on Blacksmith Shop Road.
The Falmouth situation was invoked several times during the hearing as a cautionary example of the risks of putting a commercial-grade turbine too close to homes, but Richard Elrick of Mashpee, who is the energy coordinator for the towns of Barnstable and Bourne, maintained that “not all turbines are Falmouth turbines.”
Mr. Elrick, who called the regulations “onerous” and a serious impediment to permitting land-based wind turbines on Cape Cod, said emerging wind technologies can more effectively mitigate impacts from noise and shadow flicker.
The public hearing will resume on Wednesday, April 20 at 2 PM in the chamber of the Assembly, located in Barnstable’s First District Courthouse. That hearing will be followed by the full Assembly meeting at 4 PM.
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