September 4, 2012
Rhode Island

Public hearing on wind turbines tonight

By Olga Enger | Middletown Patch | 4 September 2012

Tonight, Middletown will have an opportunity to chime in on one of the most controversial local debates.

A public hearing is scheduled to discuss an ordinance that would amend Article 25A of the Middletown zoning code which would restrict wind turbines in Middletown. The hearing is part of the regularly scheduled meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at Middletown Town Hall.

The motion to draft the ordinance was approved in February after Councilor Chris Semonelli said residents on Mitchell’s Lane complained of flicker, shadow and noise distractions. A neighbor has had a privately owned wind turbine in place for several years.

One lifelong resident, Tracie Spooner, said the turbine on Mitchell’s Lane forced her to move away from the area.

“There is a light humming noise that emanates from the turbines at all times and when the blades are spinning, it is more like a small engine plane flying overhead,” wrote Spooner in a letter to the editor last March. “The flicker effect is extremely annoying, especially if the sun is hitting it the right way; it’s sort of a vertigo effect. I work from home and I had to move my office into the basement in an isolated room to try to avoid the humming noise all day.”

At the last council meeting, Councilor Barbara VonVillas urged the council to wait until after November’s election to debate the issue. She said the town survey has been ignored and interviews with impacted residents were misrepresented.

“I do not think this council would like this to be an election issue,” she said. Vonvillas voted against the original motion in February.

Summary of Proposed Changes to Article 25A

• The proposal prohibits wind turbines in any zoning district except for parcels where the primary use is field crop farms, horticultural nurseries or livestock farms.
• The amendment removes the wording for small, medium and large tower wind turbines. The proposal limits all building-mounted tower-mounted wind turbines to 120 feet in height.
• The fall zone, which is currently 125 percent of the turbine’s height, would increase to 175 percent. The fall zone is defined as “the calculated area of the land surrounding a wind turbine that may be affected by debris should the supporting structure collapse or any component of the wind turbine or anything attached to it fall to the ground.”
• The proposed setback is three times the height of the turbine.
• A maintenance schedule and a report demonstrating compliance with the maintenance schedule would be required.
• The proposal would require there is no shadow or flicker to neighboring properties. The current code states those nuisances should be “minimized.”
• The amendment would prohibit the noise level to exceed 30dB.
• The proposal adds language to conduct an environmental impact analysis and well as ensure the turbine does not interfere with telecommunication transmissions.

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