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Planning Board supporting wind turbine bylaw change

DARTMOUTH – Planning Board members voted at their Feb. 7 meeting to unanimously support Precinct 9 Town Meeting member Roseanne O’Connell’s proposal to include an article at the next Town Meeting to amend the town’s current Wind Turbine Bylaw with language prohibiting commercial wind turbines in residential districts.

Ms. O’Connel suggested that the amended bylaw would restore the integrity and protections of people living in the town’s residential districts.

Residents have been put at risk from “the lack of control” of the turbine bylaw, passed in 2009, she told the board. “We didn’t know then what we know today,” she remarked, advocating for an update of the regulations.

Eighty percent of the town is residential, and “we need the support of the Planning Board,” she said before the vote.

She recommended amending section 34.301 of zoning bylaw, by changing the second paragraph to state: “The construction of any commercial-size wind Energy Conversion Facility (WECF) shall be permitted only in the Commercial and Industrial District of the Town, provided the proposed use complies with Dimensional and Special Permit Regulations set forth under Sections 34.300 and 34.400 of this by law (unless waived by the SPGA) and the application conforms to the letter and the spirit of the provisions of the Bylaw.

“Commercial-size WECF shall be prohibited in the General Residence, Single Residence A and Single Residence B District, and shall not be allowed in those Districts by use variance,” the amendment reads.

Planning Director Donald Perry recommended making an additional change. “The zoning map includes Gulf Road, which has a marine industrial park, and a wind turbine could be built there,” he noted.

“The Board of Selectman has to place the article on their agenda and once it is on their agenda we can hold a special public hearing,” Mr. Perry advised.

Planning Board member John Sousa felt the timing of the amendment was good. “People are a lot more educated and trying to be leaders. I think Town Meeting would be more susceptible to the changes,” he said.

Sousa suggested that the Planning Board co-sponsor the article.

In related business, the Planning Board voted to add a member of the Board of Health to the town’s Technical Research Group (TRG), which reviews wind turbine applications.

“We think we should have a member on the group. We are working on putting (noise) regulations in place. Ten to 20 percent of people are bothered by this type of noise,” Board of Health member Thomas Hardman said.

The noise levels for turbines varies because of the manufacturer, he noted. The Board of Health has gone to the Portsmouth Abby as part of their research on noise regulations, he added.

Planning Board Chairman Joseph Toomey agreed it was a good idea to have a member from the Board of Health on the TRG.

“We are receiving new information worldwide, and a (TRG) member would be exposed to information quicker,” Mr. Toomey said. “We are still learning nationwide, and a member from the Board of Health would be more than welcome on the TRG,” he suggested.