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Councilor Semonelli’s perspective on wind turbine zoning

Town councilor Christopher T. Semonelli submitted this letter on why he supports the recently passed resolution to amend the zoning ordinance that would restrict wind turbine placements.

I have been involved with wind turbine discussions since my first term, in fact I stopped the fast moving wind turbine approval freight train, with the assistance of others, then to the disappointment of a lot of colleagues.

While I did not want to certainly see a large unit in Middletown, I tried to keep an open mind about smaller units, but lacked the tools and data to evaluate the impact of a unit on their neighbors, that is until recently.

After reviewing the submittals to the recent Middletown wind turbine survey I noticed one submittal submitted by the neighbor of the wind turbine unit on Mitchell’s Lane. I called them and asked for time to discuss their comments and invited council President Weber and Vice President Long to the meeting .

We met and the neighbors said that they do experience flutter noise like that of a fire engine when the wind direction is correct, and flicker, when this occurs, they do not want to be in the room.

This family is not anti wind turbines, in fact they burn pellets and are very green oriented. This family felt that they could live with these annoyances but felt that it would be difficult if the unit was in an area where they spent most of their time like the back of the house and sleep would be impacted.

We also discussed the impact on their view shed if you look to the left of their front window you see a beautiful view of fields, if you look to the right, you see a less desirable view of the wind turbine, they said.

We did have a discussion about designing set-backs to guarantee that these annoyances would not occur and I do not feel comfortable that we came up with absolute criteria that guarantee these events can be eliminated.

While some may say it is important to be considerate of neighbors and the situation can be similar to that of an air conditioner next door, the difference they pointed out is that this noise, and the flicker and flutter distractions are inconsistent and start and stop continually and are very annoying.

I am reminded after this discussion , of the comments of a person in Portsmouth who lives next to the large unit and asked us twice not to allow wind turbines to protect all neighbors.

While I am not anti-green, in fact I fully support a solar panel request on our recent consent calendar , I feel an obligation to protect the neighbor in the town who is not aware of these potential distractions.

Unlike during the terms of the last two councils when the local data did not exist, I feel now we have all of the facts , that we needed to make a decision.

We needed to drill the data down to the local level, the local neighbor, and this was possible with the comments from this survey.

The local Middletown surveys results did provide overall feedback of people in the town of Middletown and was very informative, but in may have been more productive if it was given to those close to an existing wind turbine , those actually affected by the unit.

A majority of the 549 respondents to the Survey stated that they would support a unit of any size, if it was located outside of the Town of Middletown, this is clearly not an endorsement of having a Wind turbine in the town of Middletown, by those who filled out the survey.

As a result of this meeting and all of the research done on this subject up to this date, I made up my mind, and at the last council meeting and I moved that we instruct the Town Administrator, Town Planner and Town Solicitor to prepare an amendment to the zoning ordinance to prohibit wind turbines in all zoning districts, with the following exceptions:

1. Building Mounted, Small and Medium-Tower Turbines may be allowed for the following Agricultural uses, provided the use is the primary use on the lot:

2. Field crop farms or horticultural nurseries, including wholesale sales on the same lot.

3. Livestock farms.

We did pass this resolution at our last meeting, my decision is based solely on my clear understand of the facts , and I feel in the best interest of not only the 549 respondents that replied to the survey, which do not get me wrong, were very important, but all the 17,000 residents that live in the town of Middletown. One can argue with my logic ,and I welcome the debate, but not my dedication to always do what I feel is in the best interest of Middletown.