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Farmington windpower ordinance set for hearing

FARMINGTON – An ordinance targeting commercial and residential wind power systems was briefly reviewed by selectmen Tuesday. The next step would be a hearing to gather public input on the plan.

The ordinance is not aimed at industrial-level wind farms, projects like the ones installed at Mars Hill and Kibby Mountain which feature the largest wind turbines at 410 feet tall. Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser doesn’t believe those projects are feasible in Farmington, due to the terrain and lack of strong wind. However, a smaller, commercial project was presented to the planning board members at their Oct. 17 meeting as a possibility off Bailey Hill Road.

That proposal is to install four, 293-foot-tall wind turbines off Davis Road near the Bailey Hill Road intersection. At the meeting, Brian Kuhn, a principal of Associated Wind Developers from Plymouth, Mass., which develops wind power projects and Aeronautica Windpower, which manufactures 750 kilowatt, “queen-sized” or smaller turbines for more populated areas, described the proposed project in Farmington in its infancy.

The new ordinance was approved by the planning board on Nov. 14. Selectmen will hold a public hearing on the ordinance, likely near the end of December, and would need to approve the ordinance to allow it to appear on the spring town meeting warrant.

The ordinance sets in place a permitting procedure for wind projects, regulating setbacks, sound emissions and making provisions for radio signal disturbance, lighting and shadow flicker. As the ordinance currently reads, turbines would be required to not exceed a sound pressure level of 60 decibels, with the reading taken from the nearest property line.

The ordinance also mandates the construction of fences at the base of towers, and that non-operative turbines be removed. A projection of a prospective project’s potential for shadow flicker, caused by the blades casting shadows on the ground or other background to create rapid shifts in light intensity, would also be required.

Fees of $50, for a residential turbine, and $500, for each turbine in a commercial project, would be required to submit an application.

The ordinance exempts wind power systems used to pump water or operate equipment.

Official notification from the town about the date and time of the public hearing will be made available when known.