FARMINGTON – March town meeting voters will decide whether to include proposed wind energy performance standards in the town zoning ordinance.
Selectmen voted 3-2 Tuesday to add the issue to the warrant.
Selectmen Ryan Morgan and Andrew Hufnagel wanted to see more “tweaking” on the performance standards by the Planning Board and voted not to add it to the warrant for the March 19 meeting.
Chairman Stephan Bunker and Selectmen Jessica Berry and Dennis Pike indicated they thought residents should have a say and voted to include it on the warrant.
“We don’t want to rush into it and then fix it,” Morgan said.
A question arose about whether this could be voted on during a special town meeting or would have to wait till next year, leaving the door open for anyone to erect a wind system with no guidelines.
Hufnagel said he felt it wasn’t ready and questioned if it was “possible to tweak it before it goes to town meeting.”
During a public hearing before the board vote, Bert Knapp told the board he thought the proposed ordinance was too weak regarding noise.
“We live in a rural district and don’t want to hear a windmill,” he said. “It’s a quiet town and (that’s) why most of us live here.”
The standards do not allow systems to exceed 60 decibels as measured from the closest property line. Knapp suggested that number is less strict than other state and city standards. Portland has a 43-decibel limit, he added.
Planning Board member Tom Eastler said decibels of sound are confusing. His voice at the meeting would probably measure 85 decibels while the soft-spoken Knapp perhaps only 35.
“Sixty decibels is quieter than I’m speaking right now,” Eastler said. “Machines measure sound levels not noise. Noise is unwanted sound. Noise is in the ear of the beholder.”
There are not that many places in Farmington that would be good for commercial wind power, he added.
“I only know of two sites that might work for commercial systems,” he said.
Osborne Road resident Brian Demshar said he would like the Planning Board to consider having studies done on proposed systems regarding visual impact. Although not a direct abutter to the Bailey Farm wind project proposed in October, the views from his home could change as he overlooks the proposed site.
It was pointed out that the Planning Board requires photos taken from several locations on a proposed project with the “energy system superimposed to aid in evaluating the visual appearance,” according to the standards.
Selectman Hufnagel questioned the exemption that allows “systems used for pumping water or air or operating equipment” to be exempt from requirements for a residential wind system.
Copies of the proposed standards are available at the town office prior to the March meeting.
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