Bourne voters will be able to debate and vote on the citizen-proposed wind turbine bylaws that will be the sole article on the warrant at Monday night’s Special Town Meeting, set for 7:30 PM in the Bourne High School Auditorium.
After a three-hour public hearing Friday, Bourne Planning Board member ended discussions, having heard what they deemed enough information to make a recommendation on that article.
Planning board Chairman Christopher J. Farrell asked the board to keep in mind that Town Planner Coreen V. Moore had described the bylaw, as proposed by the citizens, as “flawed,” when recommending an action to voters.
Given everything he had heard, board member Dudley M. Jensen said he would be uncomfortable recommending the changes at this time. Planning Board member Douglas Shearer agreed, but noted that he did think that the town’s existing bylaw did need improvement. Mr. Shearer moved to make a formal recommendation that the bylaws be studied further before any changes were adopted, and authorized Planning Board Chairman Christopher J. Farrell to make that report to Town Meeting.
That motion passed by a show of hands.
Only one board member, Peter J. Meier, opposed the motion, saying he thought that passing the citizen-proposed changes would prevent any large-scale turbines from being approved in Bourne. He said he would rather err on the side of caution, correcting any flaws in the measure later.
Town Counsel Robert S. Troy said the motion, as passed, would allow the matter to be debated on Monday night.
Mr. Troy also announced the Town Moderator Robert W. Parady had ruled that the three modifications proponents wanted to make from Town Meeting floor were not substantive and would be allowed. Mr. Troy did not indicate whether Mr. Parady would accept any other amendments to the article, beyond saying that the moderator did not want “to write the bylaw” at Town Meeting.
A large, standing-room-only audience packed the lower conference room of Town Hall to take part in the public portion of the hearing, including residents of Falmouth, Plymouth, and Wareham who had strong feelings about the proposed changes.
The planning board hearing began with a presentation by Christopher Senie, the attorney for the citizens proposing the bylaw changes.
He told the planning board those changes would:
Create a safety setback of 1.5 times the rotor diameter plus the hub height;
Create an acoustic setback 10 times the rotor diameter;
Set acoustic standards, lowering the existing bylaw’s standard of 10 decibels over ambient (background) noise to 6 decibels over the ambient level during the day and 35 decibels over ambient at night;
Set acoustical testing standards; and
Limit shadow flicker to a maximum of five hours per year.
Ms. Moore pointed out a number of technical errors within the proposed bylaw, including the fact that the formula for the safety setback, as written in the article, could be calculated two different ways, with different results.
She then presented several maps of the town, showing where residential, community or neighborhood, and industrial sized turbines could be placed. Those maps showed which town parcels were large enough to accommodate wind turbines, but did not take into account setbacks from structures already on those parcels or other factors.
Ms. Moore said that no community scale turbine would actually fit on the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School parcel under the new bylaw.
Gray Curtis, a member of the selectmen’s energy advisory committee rose to speak as an individual. He told the board that his committee identified 12 publicly owned parcels where the wind would be adequate for a community scale turbine. He said that, under the proposed bylaw changes, none of them could accommodate one of that size.
Comments ranged from the general to the specific. One New Generation Wind proponent, for example, asked what role was left for the planning board if citizens could come in and change a bylaw because they did not like one specific project. Another man stood to talk about the background noise levels in Bourne during the nighttime.
After hearing a wind turbine proponent emphasize the need for alternative energy, planning Board member Donald W, Duberger commented that he was not interested in ideology, and that the board was interested, instead, in ‘safety factors.” Mr. Duberger said he understood the economies of scale, but did not think the board needed to design a bylaw simply to accommodate industrial sized turbines,
He also made sure the public knew that even under the current bylaw, the board could reject a project for such things as “visual impact” alone.
Planning board members also heard from the developer of Wareham’s Bog Wind project, one which is being scaled down.
He and several others told the planning board that he proposed bylaw’s 10 times the rotor diameter acoustical setback is, effectively, a moratorium on wind turbines.
At least three speakers suggested that any bylaw adopted by the town at least follow the model of the Cape Cod Commission, which uses that same standard, but would allow the commission some leeway. They could lessen that setback if evidence showed that the noise generated by a turbine would be within acceptable limits at, say, two or three times the rotor diameter.
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