Falmouth Planning Board this week continued its fine-tuning of a draft wind turbine bylaw, which is tentatively scheduled for a final public hearing next month. The latest draft reviewed on Tuesday contained several new items that resulted from board discussions last week, as well as a few notable changes, starting with the scope of the “public out-reach area”—the area surrounding a proposed turbine project that would receive direct notifications of any public hearings.
The original language set the public outreach area based on the turbine height; all abutters living within a radius equal to four times the turbine’s height, as measured from the property line, would receive notification. Direct abutters, those living immediately adjacent to the turbine site, would be notified by certified mail and would have legal standing as a “party-in-interest,” while secondary abutters—properties adjacent to direct abutters— would be notified by standard mail and have no party-in-interest standing.
This week the board adopted a new public outreach standard. In accordance with state standards, as recommended by Town Planner Brian A. Currie, all abutters living within 300 feet of the site would receive notifications via certified mail and have party-in-interest standing. Residents living between 300 and 1,500 feet of a site would be notified by regular mail and have no party-in-interest standing.
This new standard would apply to all turbines required to under-go a special permitting process with the planning board, regardless of size. Under the draft bylaw, only turbines with generation capacities between three watts and 200 kilowatts (kW) would need a
special permit; turbines smaller than three watts would not need a permit and those larger than 200 kW would not be allowed in town.
The new draft added language requiring a turbine developer to submit as part of its application any certifications of its turbine from independent entities, such as the Small Wind Certification Council or the American Wind Energy Association. Mr. Currie said the lack of any such certifications would not automatically block an application from going forward, but could serve as a possible red flag for the planning board. However, he
stressed, the board would have Turbine Bylaw Could Receive Final Public Hearing In August to make its judgments on a case-by-case basis, because a lack of certification could simply indicate the technology in question is so new it has not had a chance to undergo any certification processes.
The board was divided over wording in the bylaw pertaining to sound impacts on abutters. In the section labeled “criteria for review,” it states that the applicant “shall have the burden of proving that the sound generated by [a turbine] will not have a significant impact on adjacent land uses.” The theoretical impact could be determined through the sound modeling studies required by the bylaw, but the board debated whether to strike the word “significant” from the passage in the interest of protecting residents. In the end the board concurred that a “significant impact” is a subjective condition, and the language at present granted a reasonable degree of flexibility for turbine developers.
Chairman Ralph E. Herbst and member James Fox proposed amending language greatly restricting the amount of allowable shadow flicker on nearby properties. Mr. Herbst and Mr. Fox preferred a zero-tolerance approach, meaning that no amount of shadow flicker on an abutting residential property would be allowable, but the other board members opposed the idea, believing that a zero-tolerance approach would effectively block all turbine development in town.
A public hearing on the final draft is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, August 14. The planning board plans to submit the final proposed bylaw for inclusion on the warrant of the November Annual Town Meeting.
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