DENNIS – Peter Lomenzo, chairman of Dennis’ Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee, is a man of his word.
Surprised by the narrow margin by which he recently won re-election in May, Lomenzo said the morning after the election that he would offer a forum at which members of the Dennis community could share comments and concerns about renewable energy in the historic district.
Last summer, Lomenzo voted against Aquacultural Research Corporation’s wind turbine project and as chairman of the regional OKH committee, he spoke against the project.
“This forum gives the committee a way to hear the needs of potential applicants without focusing on any one applicant’s request,” Lomenzo said as he opened the June 15 workshop. “We meet here today to look at what the Act gives us as guidelines for energy-conscious design.”
Lomenzo referred attendees and the viewing public to nine rules the Old King’s Highway Act requires local committees to follow in deciding on renewable-energy applications (see sidebar). Rosemarie Austin of Dennis asked for clarification of the rule that requires turbines “be located as far as possible from the street line so as to minimize the visual impact of the device.” Austin wanted to know which street line the Act refers to: the street where the turbine is located or Route 6A?
Committee member Gary Barber said he assumed this means any street. “It shouldn’t impact the historic district,” he said. “I think it means as far as possible from the road, any road,” member Bill Bohlin said. Lomenzo suggested people considering “energy-conscious designs” familiarize themselves with the Act’s requirements before spending time and money on a plan.
Committee members agreed that “visual impact” includes Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Brewster and Orleans, the other five towns in the OKH district.
Lomenzo said the word “surrounding” is vague in the rule requiring renewable projects to have “minimum visual impact on the surrounding neighborhood.” He said neighbors include those in boats in the water. “So the surrounding neighborhood can be defined by any place that can see [renewable energy devices].” Members agreed with this interpretation.
Lomenzo noted the solar panel exemption opportunity offered to residents of the historic district living south of, not on, Setucket Road. The application for exemption requests maps, drawings and details about the proposed project that OKH members review. If the project meets their approval, it is exempted from a formal hearing.
Lomenzo said the committee will soon consider expanding the area of solar panel exemptions and look at ways to integrate solar projects on historic properties along Route 6A.
Barber said turbine technology is being developed that is smaller and more powerful than existing turbines. But the committee can’t wait forever for this technology to be made available and must consider each project that comes before them on its own merit.
Gail Hart of ARC said the new technology is not available. “We’ve been talking about it for three years,” she said. “We hired engineers who told us which equipment we need to produce the amount of energy we need.” Hart said smaller turbines are fine for people who consume less energy.
Last summer the town’s OKH committee approved ARC’s application to construct a 242-foot wind turbine on its 39-acre property adjacent to Chapin Beach. Austin appealed the decision, and the regional OKH committee rejected the project.
Asked if her engineers have considered a series of smaller turbines or wind-propelling generators, Hart said to meet her energy needs, ARC would have to construct three 150 kW turbines and spend twice as much money.
Bohlin suggested that ARC construct its turbine on the town’s old landfill, which is zoned for wind, but Hart said leasing land would increase ARC’s costs. Austin said the Cape should identify an area, like the Mass Military Reservation, for turbines to be built where they won’t hurt anyone.
“I think wind energy is going to die down because the government is not going to fund it,” said Barber.
Josie Dornback of Dennis admitted frustration. “To me, wind turbines still use fossil fuel,” she said. “Wind turbines do not belong on Cape Cod. They do not look pretty.” Dornback expressed concern about possible injuries if a hurricane hits a 30-50 foot turbine installed in sand.
“There’s a lot of information we haven’t gotten truthfully on wind turbines and solar panels,” said committee member Frank Ciambriello, who noted that people trying to sell a product tend to promote the positives and withhold the negatives. “The misinformation out there makes our job even more difficult.”
Lomenzo said it’s going to take lots of work for the committee to “respond appropriately” to wind-turbine applications. “It’s frustrating and difficult, so naturally we look to technology to solve our problems.”
“The appearance of the new technologies are difficult for Old Kings Highway to embrace within the confines of the Act,” said Lomenzo, who plans to invite experts on wind and solar energy to speak at future workshops.
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