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Questions raised about proposed Sumner wind ordinance  

Credit:  Terry Karkos, Staff Writer, Sun Journal, www.sunjournal.com 19 April 2012 ~~

SUMNER – Ten months spent crafting an ordinance with which to regulate wind development got picked apart by a handful of residents in 90 minutes Wednesday night.

Most of the criticism focused on a set of ethics for town officials concerning conflicts of interest, setbacks for turbines from property lines, creating “reasonable” protections, and whether money used by a developer to pay for required items would come from an escrow account or some other fund.

“It was invaluable,” Larry O’Rourke, committee member, said afterward of the concerns shared.

Resident Arlene Silverman began the hearing once moderator Terry Hayes allowed residents to speak.

Silverman asked whether the attorney’s recommendation regarding the ethics section was incorporated in some way into the document.

Jim McCarthy, the committee moderator, said they did add the ethics section into the document.

Silverman then asked if there were any town ordinances that also had a section detailing ethical standards.

“If the attorney took it out, why was it reincorporated?” she asked.

McCarthy said there was a consensus among the committee to restore that section.

Silverman said the ethical standards sections should be removed since it’s not in other town laws.

Two other residents agreed.

Then George Jones spoke at length about what he called the ordinance’s shortcomings.

Under definitions in Section 5, Jones said there’s no definition of “inaudible noise” under Acoustical Hazard.

“I spent a lot of time in Webster’s (Dictionary) today and I couldn’t find any reference to ‘inaudible noise,’ ” he said.

“‘Ambient noise is not considered part of the long-term background sound,’ I’m sorry, it’s always there when I’m listening,” he said after reading a sentence in another definition.

“I don’t know how it cannot be considered,” he said.

When asked by Hayes if he was looking for responses, Jones said he was only making observations and that the committee could do what it wants with them.

“Ambient sound is ambient sound,” he said. “I don’t know how you can disregard ambient sound.”

Jones also said they need to allow a developer to conduct a meteorological study before requiring the developer to submit a wind farm application.

He also objected to the 1.25-mile setback from property lines rather than an occupied dwelling and asked who would measure shadow flicker to determine it violated the ordinance.

Jones then thanked the committee for its work before telling them that it would be in the courts for years.

“There’s enough material here to keep several attorneys going for decades,” he said.

Resident Bob Runes wanted a better definition of decibels and objected to a statement requiring a developer provide community benefits. He said as it’s written, it amounts to extortion.

His wife, Susan Runes, Sumner’s town clerk, had several issues, including the ethics standard.

“Why are you making them identify in writing why they are recusing themselves (due to conflict of interest)?” she asked.

When asked by one resident what happens should the ordinance get voted down, committee member Jeff Pfeiffer said there would be no way to compel a developer to give the town anything.

“The bottom line is that if you have an ordinance, the town sets the rules,” he said.

The public hearing revealed there is still work remaining before the Sumner Wind Ordinance Committee can call it done and present it as such to selectmen by Wednesday, April 25.

Once that’s done, there’s no more tweaking, despite a second public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, at the fire station. And then the proposal goes to a town meeting vote starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, instead of several hours during the day at the polls.

Source:  Terry Karkos, Staff Writer, Sun Journal, www.sunjournal.com 19 April 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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