The Planning Board and Staff are to be commented for their determination during the board’s eight month effort to revise the town’s Wind Turbine bylaw. The new draft has many distinctly positive differences over the old. And it continues to promote wind energy in our community. It’s a good start! Contrasting ideals, however, were made clear at the October 9 meeting regarding ‘how’ best to institute protections.
One way, strongly supported by commenters, is for clear and defined performance standards. This argument is driven by a need to prevent the current wind siting dilemma from ever resulting in any future such civic disruption. Who knew, four years ago, that our present wind turbine debacle would have caused such community divide and involve so many more difficult moral and financial decisions in 2012?
The opposing view, promoted by planning staff and recommended by the board, is to not mark out performance impact thresholds. The reason, volatile issues of low frequency, amplitude modulation, and whether to measure wind turbine noise in A-weighted or C-weighted decibels (naming only a few points of contention) remain scientifically too controversial and under-researched, to justify limits.
The alleged advantage for the intentional lack of regulatory specificity allows easy implementation of technical advancement, avoids repeated future Town Meeting amendments, protects municipal liabilities and avoids the responsibilities of “burden of proof”.
The bylaw, as drafted, however leaves the basic underlying question to whether the absence of regulatory limits, concerning the very points of issue that have given cause for a new bylaw, will secure the intent of what the bylaw is suppose to do. That intent is to clearly safeguard citizen property rights and uses, as well as to clearly defining the permitting framework necessary for wind developers.
In simplest terms, the bylaw is “trickle down” permitting and protection. It does allow technology flexibility, might avoid bothering Town Meeting, and possibly protects municipal liabilities. But what of the timely and necessary protections due the wind project developer and citizen landowner?
Falmouth can’t afford the potential for continued controversy without hard and fast regulation. I urge Town meeting members to thank the board for their efforts so far, reject Article 3, and recommend that more work needs to be done.
Mark J. Cool
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