Last night, Middletown town council passed an ordinance that would restrict the placement of turbines in Middletown. The motion passed 4-2, with councilor Edward Silveira absent and councilors Richard Cambra and Barbara VonVillas opposed.
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.
One of those residents, John Byrne, has since stated that his comments were misrepresented and he never complained to his neighbor about the turbine.
“I opened our discussion by stating the fact that I do not have a problem with the two turbines across the street,” wrote Byrne in a letter to the editor.
A previous resident of Mitchell’s Lane and lifelong Middletown resident, Tracie Spooner disagreed. She went as far to say the turbine was a factor for why her family left Middletown for good.
During last night’s public hearing on the issue, resident Forest Hanford said he lives at Spooner’s previous residence on Mitchell’s Lane. He told council his family has not experienced the same issues she described.
“Personally I am for continued wind development in the area,” said Hanford.
Middletown resident Tim Hetland, Vice President of Rhode Island Wind Power, Inc., urged council to vote the motion down.
“You are still basing a lot of these decisions on one woman’s thoughts, and she doesn’t live in this town,” said Hetland. During the first public hearing held September 4, Semonelli read an email from Spooner that reiterated her concerns about the turbines.
Hetland said the council has referenced studies that are based on large wind turbines, which can not be compared to the small wind turbines found on Mitchell’s Lane.
Hetland said the turbine at the corporate park has generated 640,000 kWh, which he said is enough power for 36 homes.
“The fact is, they do work,” said Hetland. “If you are going to do anything, send it back to the planning board, tweak it out.”
The planning board has said the ordinance, as it stands, is inconsistent with Middletown’s Comprehensive Plan.
“The effect of the amendments would be to inhibit, rather than promote the development the development of wind turbines,” wrote Jan Eckart, Chairman of the Middletown Planning Board in an advisory letter to the council.
Councilors who approved the ordinance argued it was consistent with the comprehensive plan since it protected the well-being of residents.
Councilor Antone Viveiros said he supports the ordinance because most wind turbine studies report issues with noise.
“I think the proposal is quite adequate,” said Viveiros. “It protects the quality of life of the citizens and residents of Middletown.”
Click here for a complete summary of the changes to Article 25A, Wind Turbines of the Middletown zoning code.
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