FARMINGTON – A proposed ordinance that would make it easier for residents to install small wind turbines passed through to town meeting without changes after a public hearing at Tuesday night’s Planning Board meeting.
Two other proposed zoning ordinances were also passed through without changes, while one ordinance required a few changes and will go through another public hearing.
According to Planning Board Chair Paul Parker, while a number of individuals were at the meeting with questions about the wind turbine ordinance, there was little opposition to it.
“I was very happy to see that go through,” he said Wednesday.
The Planning Board has been looking into creating such an ordinance for several years now, according to Parker, who said that having a town ordinance in place for the permitting of small wind turbines makes it easier for those in the community to install them as the process does not have to go through the state.
The proposed ordinance developed by the board applies to wind turbines that have an energy-producing capacity of 100 kilowatts or less and that will be used primarily for on-site energy consumption.
According to the ordinance, small wind turbines will be permitted in all zoning districts as long as the requirements of the ordinance are met. The systems cannot exceed 30 feet above the average tree line closest to it.
For a system that is less than or equal to 20 kilowatts, the turbine must be setback from other structures at 110 percent of the system’s height. For units that are 21 to 100 kilowatts, the setback must be 150 percent of the system’s height.
According to Parker, this aspect of the ordinance is one key difference from the state’s requirements, which do not differentiate between smaller systems and larger systems in terms of setback distances.
“In some areas this may make it possible for someone to have one in an area they may not have been able to (under state requirements),” Parker said.
The ordinance also sets limits on the amount of sound a wind turbine is allowed to produce, setting that level at 55 decibels. The ordinance also limits any signs, flags, or decorative items on wind turbines in the town to manufacturer identification or warning signs only.
According to the proposed ordinance, all abutters of the property where the turbine is being built will be notified and be given a 30-day comment period before the system is approved. Each application for a small wind energy system will also be reviewed to determine if it will have a regional impact. If so, the Strafford Regional Planning Commission and affected towns will also be notified. All notification fees will be covered by the applicant.
Two other proposed ordinances – one of which would extend the boundary of the Commercial Business District from Tappan Street to the New Durham line and one of which would create a Lancelot Shores Overlay District – were also passed through to town meeting without changes, although Parker said the Lancelot Shores ordinance brought out many residents with questions.
According to Parker, the ordinance would create a Lancelot Shores Overlay District inside of the existing agricultural residential district there, which would allow residents to have a 25 foot setback from their homes to the street as opposed to the current 50 foot setback requirement.
Currently, Parker said, the 50-foot setback can make it difficult for some residences to make changes to their home, such as adding a front porch.
One resident ran into such a problem last year, he said, and had to spend the money and time going through the zoning permitting process.
The new ordinance would make it easier for those residents to make such changes without going through that often costly process.
A fourth proposed zoning ordinance was also discussed at the hearings Tuesday night, and after undergoing some changes will go through another public hearing in two weeks.
Parker said the town attorney came to the hearing with a number of suggestions for the proposed Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Code, which would establish basic requirements for property maintenance.
The biggest change suggested for the ordinance is to remove one section of it that outlines how the ordinance should be enforced. According to Parker, the enforcement measures laid out in the ordinance conflict with the normal zoning enforcement process. Since the ordinance is being adding into the town zoning ordinance, its section on enforcement is not needed, Parker said.
Other changes to be made to the proposed ordinance are simply wording changes to clarify some portions of it.
The Planning Board will hold another public hearing on the ordinance on Jan. 17.
The three other ordinances will now go on to the Board of Selectmen, who will review them and decide whether to recommend them to residents at Town Meeting. No mater what decision the selectmen make, however, the ordinances will be warrant articles at town meeting.
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