BOURNE – A power outage caused by a Sandwich Road accident nearly ended town meeting for the night before lights snapped back on, allowing residents to approve by secret ballot an amendment to the town’s wind turbine bylaw.
The amendment, which needed a two-thirds vote to pass, was approved 359-13.
Around 9 p.m. Monday, the Bourne High School auditorium was dark for 40 minutes after NStar shut down power to the grid, Moderator Robert Parady announced.
During that time, voters terminated debate of the amendment and recessed town meeting but ended that recess once the lights came back on.
The amendment tightens setback, noise and flicker requirements for turbines in town and eliminates the possibility of future commercial-grade turbines in town. The changes won’t affect the seven-turbine New Generation Wind project.
Planning board chairman Christopher Farrell told the nearly 600 voters that under Massachusetts law the project would be governed by whatever rules were in place on the date its proponents filed a preliminary plan.
That date, Farrell said, was Friday, meaning New Generation would be governed by the turbine bylaw approved at town meeting last year – and that could potentially allow six 2.5-megawatt turbines and one 2-megawatt turbine on land in Bournedale owned by the Panhandle Trust and Cape Cod Aggregates.
New Generation has seven months to file a final plan for the turbine project, Farrell said.
If it is approved by the planning board, the land the turbines would be situated on would be grandfathered under Bourne’s current, less restrictive bylaw for eight years.
The current bylaw requires turbines to be set back from homes by a distance of the turbine’s height plus 10 feet, or around 500 feet for the New Generation turbines.
The bylaw amendment would have increased that to 10 times the turbine’s rotor blade diameter, or more than 3,000 feet for New Generation’s turbines.
Tension filled the room throughout the meeting, reaching a crescendo during the auditorium’s power outage and leading Parady to threaten one resident with removal by Bourne police.
The short debate period, ended by voters during the power outage, saw only a handful of speakers including Farrell and the bylaw amendment’s author, attorney Christopher Senie.
The opinion that the proposed amendment’s regulations are “arbitrary and capricious,” according to selectman’s energy committee member Thomas Gray Curtis – seemed to fall on deaf ears.
New Generation Wind has seen opposition since its initial proposal last fall, with residents and even the town’s board of selectmen expressing their discomfort with the Bournedale project.
New Generation backers pulled their plans from consideration by the county board in March, only to refile a few days later with the same opposition.
The project is scheduled for its first commission public hearing on May 17.
Bourne is not the first town to express opposition to large-scale wind turbines. In April, voters in Falmouth approved a one-year turbine moratorium on turbines, while voters in Dennis, Brewster, Orleans and Wellfleet have nixed plans for turbines.
Aside from the unplanned power outage, the meeting stood out for its turnout, which reached levels unseen in town for years.
“Is that a line?” one door greeter asked as voters filed into the Bourne High School auditorium and filled it to capacity.
Town meeting last week approved reducing the required town m
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