WAYLAND – About 30 residents showed up at the Planning Board meeting last week to consider the green initiatives that Stop & Shop is preparing for its new store at the Town Center.
The most controversial component of the project for board members and residents is the proposed six wind turbines that would generate about 1 percent of the energy needed for the store.
Kalu Watanabe of Wing Power Energy, the manufacturer of the turbines, sought to assuage concerns over noise and potential safety hazards in inclement weather – in particular, high winds and ice and snow.
“Our systems are virtually silent,” Watanabe said. “The wind is louder than they are. In addition, they don’t look like what people think of as windmills – some say kinetic art.
“The major thing is that people confuse us with big 500-foot systems with 300-foot diameters that are noisy (and) kill birds.”
As for unruly weather that might cause the turbines to topple, blades to fall off, or create ice that could potentially harm passerby, Watanabe said his company’s initial market was envisioned as being in the Caribbean, where hurricane winds regularly cause damage.
“We’re just now announcing that we have hydraulic systems that can take down one of these turbines in about an hour,” he said. “As for ice throwing, I’ve never heard of it – and these units have been installed in Niigata Prefecture in Japan, where the winter weather is much more severe than it is here.”
Ira Montague, chairman of the Planning Board, asked about maintenance. Watanabe assured him regular maintenance checks are performed. “And, once it’s established,” he said, “it’s pretty low maintenance.”
Planning Board member Colleen Sheehan expressed a hope that the turbines will not be used to display graphics, a sentiment echoed by resident Anette Lewis. “This is really not ‘New England village,’” she said.
In submitted comments, resident Tom Sciacca said he was concerned about the visibility of the proposed windmills from the nearby Sudbury River, inadequate wind conditions for meaningful generation of electricity, and the inherent poor inefficiency of small turbines.
Light flicker, similar to strobes, was also an issue of concern. Resident Paul Van Mulbregt worried this would negatively affect homes in nearby neighborhoods.
As to the zoning regulations, Lewis further noted she finds nothing in them that would allow such turbines.
Frank Dougherty of Twenty Wayland, the Town Center project developer, countered there is nothing in the zoning rules that prohibits them. “When Wayland became a ‘green community,’ it embraced this goal,” he said.
The windmills, according to Town Planner Sarkis Sarkisian, would require modification of the Master Special Permit.
Sarkisian plans to visit Salem, N.H., in early April to observe installed turbines there.
Likewise, LED lighting for the parking lot, which is much brighter than conventional illumination and would be visible from nearby streets, residences and businesses, also generated some objections.
“The new traffic signals in front of the library are LED lights,” said resident George Rice. “And my house glows like a Christmas tree – red, yellow and green – 24/7.”
In response to a slide showing a proposed light mounted on a pole, Sarkisian asked if there was a better fixture for a village setting, “something more ornamental.” Dougherty promised to have more information by the Planning Board’s next meeting.
The other two proposals for Stop & Shop – for solar panels on the roof of the store and for electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot – drew relatively little comment. Montague asked how useful the charging stations would be since the supermarket’s customers could be expected to complete their shopping in about half an hour.
“Every little bit helps,” replied David Campbell, an associate at Landry Architects, which has been retained by Stop & Shop as a consultant. “This is a neighborhood project, and people are going to use the entire center, not just the grocery store.”
At the Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, May 1, the Stop & Shop team is expected to have more answers on the turbines in regards to sound, light flicker, and performance in inclement weather.
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