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Zoning bylaw change would ban commercial-scale windmills

SHELBURNE – A Planning Board public hearing on zoning bylaw changes that would ban commercial-scale windmills from Shelburne has been scheduled for April 10 at 7 p.m. in the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School cafeteria.

Also, the board has announced another meeting for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall, to discuss “time-sensitive wind turbine action items.” According to the agenda, these will include a possible moratorium on wind turbine proposals, while the board works on a siting bylaw, and legal fees. The meeting is also to take action on a Massachusetts Clean Energy Center proposal for assistance.

Last week, the town received a petition signed by at least 45 voters calling for zoning bylaw changes that would allow windmills for home or business electricity production, via he special-permit process; but it would exclude large-scale wind turbines from a zoning bylaw that allows other types of electricity generation facilities.

The petition is to put three articles on this year’s annual town meeting warrant, which means that the Planning Board must hold a public hearing on the proposed changes.

The bylaw changes proposed are:

• To require special permits for “premise use” of wind turbine sysems in the town’s “Table of Use” regulations.

• To define “wind turbine systems for premises uses” as any system of turbines, “whether located on the building or the ground, designed primarily to generate heat or electricity for the principal home or business.” The definition goes on to say that “such systems may generate a limited amount of excess electricity for resale to an electrical utility, provided the system is designed principally to supply the electrical needs of the home or business on the lot.”

• To define “Commercial Electric Generating Facilities” as “specifically excluding a facility generating from coal, nuclear power and wind turbine systems, except Wind Turbine Systems for Premises Use.”

The current bylaw doesn’t define “commercial electric generating facilities,” and allows them in all parts of town through the special permit process.

The petition comes several months after a proposal to build an eight-turbine, 20-megawatt electrical generating facility was announced last year for a ridge line on Mount Massaemet by Frederick D. Field, then withdrawn “without prejudice” during the opening of the special permit hearing in November.

Withdrawing the proposal without prejudice means that Field could resubmit his proposal for a special permit through the Zoning Board of Appeals at any time.

The Planning Board is just beginning to research wind turbine bylaws, and hopes to bring a wind bylaw to the 2013 annual town meeting.