RUMFORD – Continuing their effort to create a third wind power ordinance, selectmen at Tuesday night’s workshop agreed on a shadow flicker standard after considerable discussion.
However, because it was a workshop, they couldn’t officially approve it. That must be done at a regular board meeting.
The ordinance states that shadow flicker occurs when the blades of a wind turbine pass between the sun and an observer, casting a readily seen, moving shadow on the person and his or her immediate environment.
It asks applicants to conduct a study.
“The application will not be approved if the study estimates that the duration and location of flicker be such that there are more than 12 hours of flicker per year in an occupied structure located on a non-participating parcel,” Chairman Greg Buccina said.
“If after the construction of the (wind energy facility) violates this condition, then the WEF will be in violation of this ordinance.”
He then said the board asked Town Manager Carlo Puiia to draft a statement requesting that there be zero hours of flicker annually. Additionally, Buccina suggested that Puiia possibly use words from Eastport’s wind ordinance “to beef it up a little bit and to substantiate why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Sterling had previously read a section from Eastport’s ordinance about flicker.
Tuesday night’s general consensus on Buccina’s wording came after a 75-minute discussion.
The first ordinance, which many believed to be too restrictive and was defeated in November, limited shadow flicker to 10 hours a year.
The second ordinance, thought to be too liberal and defeated in June, bumped it up to 24 hours annually.
Selectmen at first tried to compromise, although Buccina initially wanted to go with a number lower than 10 “to eliminate a lot of potential problems.”
Like he did at the first workshop last week, Buccina allowed members of the public to also weigh in, but only if they spoke on topic.
Albert Aniel of Mexico said 10 hours annually equaled two minutes of flicker a day during sunrise and sunset depending on the siting of turbines, whereas 24 hours annually was four minutes a day.
He then asked the board to try to imagine someone experiencing shadow flicker for this long every day the sun was out.
“It would be enough to drive you crazy,” he said.
Rumford resident and businessman Roger Arsenault advised the board to place the burden on wind developers and not town taxpayers and require zero hours of shadow flicker annually.
When asked where he came up with 24 hours, Sterling said he took it from the Maine State Planning Office model wind ordinance template when he drafted the second ordinance.
Sterling said restricting it to zero “doesn’t seem practical to me.”
When Buccina asked if 12 was better, Sterling said he was considering 15 hours a year.
“There’s no science behind it,” he said, telling the board that it felt like they were picking numbers out of the air and plugging them into a blank in a sentence.
Resident Rita Aromaa said that in her work as a special education educator there are children and adults who are affected by shadow flicker. She suggested going with a lower number.
Puiia then suggested going with so many minutes a day rather than hours per year “because there isn’t going to be sunshine for 365 days.”
He suggested no more than two minutes a day at any occupied structure.
No more than 10 hours a year equals 1.7 minutes per day, “but that’s saying it will be sunny every day,” he said.
Selectman Jeremy Volkernick liked that idea, and then decided to allow no more than three hours annually.
However, Sterling and Selectman Brad Adley wanted no more than two to three minutes a day, before compromising on 12 hours annually.
“I think Carlo’s idea is a good one, but again, we’re pulling a number out of the air to fill in a blank,” Sterling said.
“Am I comfortable with it? No. Can I live with it? Probably.”
Selectmen also agreed that wind turbine blades must be coated with non-reflective paint.
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