SHELBURNE – After reviewing the 12-page Mount Massaemet Windfarm application and discussing the proposal with developer Frederick “Don” Field, the town Planning Board has decided it needs more details before it can make any recommendations.
Before a crowd that spilled into the hallway, Field said he plans to bring detailed engineering plans to the Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall Auditorium. He said he hopes to include a “flicker study,” which would show land areas that could be affected by the flickering shadow of the windmill blades slicing through sunlight. Also, he said he will be bringing a “visualization,” as is done for cell-tower public hearings.
“I’m very happy to hear there’s going to be a lot more information forthcoming,” said Planning Board member Beth Simmonds at a Memorial Hall hearing Wednesday. “It was very hard to read this. It was so general, it was difficult to formulate questions based on this.”
Field said his proposal was basically ac concept and that he wanted to make sure it was doable within the town’s zoning bylaws before he went into additional expense for more elaborate engineering, traffic studies and more.
“Has a noise study been done?” asked Planning Board Chairman Matthew Marchese.
“No,” said Field. “The noise study has to be done after the turbines are in place,” he said, drawing a gasp from the audience. “How do you do it beforehand?” he continued. “The noise can’t go over 10 decibels over ambient (noise) is the rule. You measure this with listening devices. If they (the turbine noise) exceed that, you have to shut it down.”
Field said part of the reason the noise can’t be pinned down yet is that he hasn’t determined exactly which U.S.-made turbine system would-be used: either the G.E. 2.5 or the Clipper Liberty C 99, “depending on availability at the time of construction,” says the project summary. He said there could be a difference between the two.
According to the proposal, the eight, 2.5-megawatt turbines would be located on 328-foot-tall towers and fitted with three blades that are 282 feet in diameter.
That would put the blade tips at a height of 469 feet, when in the highest position. For construction purposes, the blades and the towers will be transported by way of Route 2, then travel along private roads built on and owned by the Dole and Davenport families. After construction has been completed, the temporary road on Dole property will be removed, and access to the wind turbines will be available through Davenport property. Field said surveillance cameras will be set up to monitor traffic to the turbines. The land cleared during construction will be kept as open pasture, as it was 100 years ago.
The town has no wind turbine siting bylaw, but according to Field’s interpretation of the town’s zoning bylaws, the turbines “will have no adverse effects” on residents’ health, safety, convenience or general welfare. He believes the turbines will not have an impact on property values or have an impact on existing buildings.
He said it will “alter the appearance of Mount Massaemet,” as would a residential development there.
In arguing that the wind farm, except for the turbine height, complies with town bylaws, Field said that bylaw restrictions limiting principal structures to one per lot only apply in regions zoned “village,” “commercial/industrial” and do not apply for “residential/agricultural” zones.
Marchese said the turbine project could be seen as an industrial use in a rural/agricultural zone, which would, therefore require a special permit. Also, maximum allowable building height in Shelburne is 35 feet – another reason why a special permit is required for the project. Field has argued that the height might be subject to a variance, instead of a special permit.
Marchese said his primary concern is: “Are there legitimate health concerns?”
“That needs to be explained,” he told Field. “Are there property value issues for those who aren’t involved (in the project)?”
“As a member of this board, I’m going to be vocal about these issues, and it’s your responsibility to find the experts and make these issues clear,” said Marchese.
Marchese later said “I know it’s not public land, it’s not a state park, and that (the farm families whose land will be involved) have collectively come forth, and this is what they want to do,” he said. “I enjoy looking at that mountain. It’s beautiful. At the same time, I don’t own it. We’re concerned about flicker, we need to now how it’s going to affect public health and property values.”
Marchese said he thought the board should encourage the ZBA to explore noise studies with Field.
After the discussion, the board voted to send a letter to the ZBA, offering its assistance in clarifying the town zoning bylaws, and reserving the right to make recommendations after more complete information about the wind farm plan has been presented.
Some 60 people came to Wednesday night’s Planning Board meeting, in a room that only houses 40. The audience – mostly of people from Shelburne – also included an Ashfield planning board member and a Buckland selectman.
The Buckland Planning Board was to discuss the Shelburne wind turbine proposal with its residents during its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday night, but would not be taking any vote or other action concerning that issue.
Field has said that the turbines Will be sited mostly below the top of the ridge, on the eastern side of the slope, but that all eight turbines will be visible from McCusker’s Market on State Street.
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