By a vote of approximately 2/3, the Barnstable County Assembly ratified the Minimum Performance Standards (MPS) that were previously recommended and approved by the Cape Cod Commission. The Assembly did not approve the 65-foot threshold, the trigger for review by the CCC, but remanded it back to the Commission for further study and review.
The provisions of the MPS will now be added to the Regional Policy Plan and the provisions will be applied to any project on the Cape which triggers review by the Commission as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI).
Even with the failure of the Assembly to approve the Threshold, this vote is a landmark event for the following reasons:
This action implicitly recognizes that large, industrial wind turbines are developments of regional impact
It vests authority in the Cape Cod Commission to regulate these installations on a regional basis
It introduces a set of meaningful standards for large wind turbines, including setback provisions and limits on shadow flicker.
For large projects, it requires an independent noise study that will measure infrasound and other aspects of wind turbine noise that are potentially harmful
This new process plan acknowledges the rights and interests of residents that share neighborhoods with large wind turbines. This said, “what bearing should this determination have on considerations of impact from Falmouth’s existing municipal and private projects?”
Obviously, the decision by the regional planning bodies cause a need for more local focus and work to be done. For the moment, I think that we should all feel good about this result.
The newly adopted standards will, indeed, put Falmouth Town Hall on notice. Existing quasi regulated projects will be expected to undergo re-intensified local review and, with an eye toward new standards, possible modifications to operating controls and conditions.
A notable point, made by both the CCC and the Assembly, is that large wind projects SHALL submit to substantive public hearings. Further evidence supporting the desire of many in Falmouth for a Special Permit Process (albeit late). The Board of Selectman have been given consent and support from the regional planning bodies to act in this fashion.
Another bold act of good faith, on behalf of the selectmen, could dispel issues of litigation that mire the halls of our town government.
It was the outpouring of public comments and letters, many from Falmouth, imploring the Commission and the Assembly to show some fundamental decency and respect for the concern of Cape Cod residents and for long cherished values that won the day at the Assembly hearing.
With existing large turbines in our town, Falmouth residents should not be marginalized.
An expectation of equal treatment ushers in this new day. This need, this right, has been implied by the full faith and support of the decree made by the Cape Cod Commission and County Assembly of Delegates.
Mark Cool lives in Falmouth.
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