The Bourne Planning Board tabled any action Thursday night on a controversial citizen-petition zoning amendment that would amend and revise the town’s bylaw governing review of wind turbines.
Concerned Citizens for Responsible Energy were caught short, imploring the elected planners to either endorse a proposed revision of the town’s wind-energy systems bylaw or reject the changes. In this fashion, the article would advance to Town Meeting discussion May 2. Without a planning board vote, the amendment request goes nowhere.
The planners, however, said they need more time to “digest” proposed changes to the bylaw they took two years to write. The bylaw is considered the first in Massachusetts governing proposed land-based wind farms.
Five planning board members said they had only on Thursday received additional information from proponents and opponents of New Generation Wind LLC plans to build seven industrial-grade turbines off Scenic Highway and Route 25. The turbines would reach 495 feet high.
The discussion before the board involved the bylaw revision, however, not the proposed wind-farm. But everyone in the hearing room understood that an amended bylaw would affect New Generation Wind plans now in Cape Cod Commission review.
Board member Douglas Shearer said a map drawn by Town Planner Coreen Moore indicates the New Generation turbines could not be built anywhere in Bourne should the zoning bylaw be amended.
“All the information we’re getting is two sided,” Shearer said. “We don’t know which way this is going. The bylaw amendment as written does not allow these kinds of turbines to be built in town. I’m not ready to sign off on that. We can’t just sign off on anything that seems to preclude wind power in town.”
Board member Peter Meier, however, said the board should have voted one way or another and allowed the citizen petition to proceed to voters; even though board members all acknowledged that they had not read the latest information provided them, or come to grips with supporting and opposing turbine arguments.
Board member John Howarth, with 15 years of service on the panel, said other towns are also wrestling with how to govern turbine review. “I’m not ready to jump on this bylaw and kill it,” he said. “There is emotion on either side of the argument. We need to answer a lot of questions before we go and change the bylaw.”
Planning consultant Phil Herr had advised the board to take no action on the bylaw revision request or “go beyond” what is evolving with governing regulations relating to turbine setbacks and flicker requirements being promulgated by the Cape commission.
Board chairman Chris Farrell said members should follow that advice.
But Meier insisted the board should act because the proposed wind farm of Tudor Ingersoll and Sam Lorusso would “affect the quality of life” in the village next to the proposed turbine locations. He requested three-dimensional data generated by the citizen group, who were outraged at the vote to table consideration of their amendment once they realized it stopped them from proceeding to town meeting.
Farrell said the board needs “a reasonable amount of time” to consider the proposed bylaw changes and impacts. He said this might total two weeks at least. After the vote, he agreed to schedule a board workshop April 28 to discuss the amendment again; but he did not say a vote would be taken.
This does not rule out the board convening just before town meeting begins May 2 to take a stand one way or another.
Members of the citizen group were angered by the vote to table. One said it was “outrageous.” Another wondered out loud who was paying the planners. Still another said, “Let the people vote.”
Moore reiterated her point that her mapping analysis of the New Generation Wind project showed the seven turbines would not be able to be situated anywhere in Bourne should the governing bylaw be amended as urged by the concerned citizens. She said this did not extend to smaller community-grade turbines.
New Generation plans at this point, she said, meet minimum qualifications of the current bylaw, but the planning board can hold the organization to a higher standard if the controversial turbine plan passes muster at the Cape commission and returns to the local planners.
The plan represents the first land-based wind farm proposed in Massachusetts. The turbines would change the vista north of the canal.
The board vote to table was 6-1. Meier was opposed. He is a selectmen candidate.
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