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Middletown ‘holds course’ on wind turbine moratorium

The Middletown Town Council considered lifting the temporary ban, but only for small wind turbines as its nine-month moratorium on all new applications remains in effect.

The Middletown Town Council is not ready to revisit the wind turbine issue just yet.

After a brief but decisive discussion Monday night, council members reached a consensus to hold off on further discussions regarding the moratorium currently in effect for new wind turbine applications, until the State of Rhode Island completes its study on identifying appropriate land sites for wind turbines later this year.

Monday night’s discussion was generated by Council President Art Weber, who questioned whether town officials wanted to consider lifting the moratorium for solely smaller wind turbines under 55 feet in height. He noted, for example, that a new bladeless “Helix” model for wind turbines had come out and catered to small home and private business uses.

“Is there any appetite for modifying the moratorium for anything small?” Weber posed to the council.

Two residents urged the council to keep the temporary ban on all wind turbines, at least until after the state’s study comes out to see if better information on recommended setbacks and site restrictions was available.

“You need data and right now you don’t have any data,” resident Richard Price told the council. He reiterated residents’ concerns about proper setbacks in proportion to the sizes of wind turbines, as well as concerns about shadow, flicker, noise, ice throw, blade throw and impacts to property values.

Resident Carole Cummings echoed similar concerns for property values and cautioned against “rushing into things and making snap judgments.”

“I guess I question what the urgency is,” said Councilor Ed Silveira. He noted he had not received any phone calls or emails from town residents wanting to build the smaller wind turbines.

Councilor Bruce Long encouraged the town to “hold the course” and make a decision after the state’s study comes out.

In March, the Middletown Town Council imposed a nine-month moratorium on new wind turbine construction applications, following months of heated public debate triggered by the application of a nearly 300-foot wind turbine that had been proposed for a sheep farm overlooking Sachuest Point. That application was withdrawn in October of 2010 after opponents raised concerns.

Other communities in Rhode Island that have instituted similar moratoriums have included Tiverton, Exeter, Charlestown and North Kingstown.

Not long after Middletown issued its temporary ban on new applications, several state agencies announced the launch of a study for identifying land-based sites for wind turbines.

The complete Town Council meeting from Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 is available to view at the Town of Middletown website.