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Bylaw rewrite could halve turbine height, wattage in Fairhaven

FAIRHAVEN – A first draft of a new turbine bylaw would halve both the height and power output of future Fairhaven wind turbines.

The draft, written by Planning Board Chairman Wayne Hayward, will “completely scrap the existing bylaw” in favor of more conservative zoning regulations.

“We don’t want a developer coming into Fairhaven and taking advantage of us,” Hayward said.

Under the draft bylaw, the blade-tip height of new turbines could be no higher than 265 feet, and turbines could produce no more than 600 kilowatts. Fairhaven’s two existing turbines at the Waste Water Treatment Plant have a tip height of almost 400 feet and produce 1,500 kilowatts. They would be unaffected by a new bylaw as they were built in accordance to the town’s current ordinances, which were written in 2004. The draft bylaw would also increase the required distance between turbines and residences from one times the turbine height to 1.5 times the turbine height.

“I don’t know of many people who agree with the current height and setbacks of the turbines,” Hayward said. “The setbacks are what protect the houses and people from all of those health and noise things people are worried about. Right now, the way it is now, we feel it is not sufficient.”

Hayward said he is not aware of any future turbines being planned in town, calling the rewrite a “precautionary measure.”

He said he hopes the rewrite will allow Fairhaven to maintain its charm.

“We are a small community and we are trying to get our bylaws in scale with that,” he said. “We are hoping that the existing turbines are the biggest that will ever be in Fairhaven.”

The draft released last week has a long way to go before it becomes official. The Planning Board will be holding “working group” meetings in the next few months in order to discuss the specifics of the height and setback ordinances. In December or January, the bylaw draft will be sent to the Board of Selectmen, who will send it back to the Planning Board for the bylaw to begin the official hearing process, after which the bylaw can be put on the docket for Town Meeting.

“This is the starting point, not the end,” Director of Planning and Economic Development Bill Roth said.

Windwise member Louise Barteau said she is encouraged by the town taking a second look at its existing bylaws but questioned the process involved.

“OK, so we cut the height and the wattage, but has anyone researched whether that is enough to stop the health problems in our town?” she said. “We can’t just be choosing arbitrary numbers. We need to ask ourselves are we making an assumption about turbines or are we actually making decisions about facts and data.”

The next bylaw working group meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 in Town Hall.