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Turbine bylaws debated

FAIRHAVEN – The Fairhaven Planning Board spent almost three hours hammering out particulars of changes to the bylaws concerning wind energy facilities in town during an informal planning session focusing on the setback and height requirements, Tuesday night.

The board saw the need for more detailed bylaws after the construction of two wind towers in town. Under the present bylaw, the maximum height of a wind tower based on the height of the cell or hub of the blade, was 350 feet. The new bylaw brings that down to 265 feet for the cell and also takes into account the height of the blades which can be in excess of 100 feet.

It was noted that the height of the current two towers was 397 feet.

Much of the discussion during the meeting at Town Hall, centered around the “fall zone” of a tower and the ratio of its height to the proximity of homes, utilities and public roads or walkways.

The board members took into account the unlikely event that one of the towers would fall from the base like a tree that had been cut at its base. Chairman Wayne Hayward noted that it was highly unlikely that nay tower would fall like that.

A ratio of 1.5 times the height of the tower (with blades calculated into the number) to the nearest home was among the options, as was 1.2 and 1.1 Currently, the fall zone is equal to the height of the tower.

The board also discussed ice fling, however planner William Roth pointed out that the units shut down if the buildup of ice gets to the level that it could be flung off the tower by the turn of the blades. He recommended that the distance be four times the height of the tower, or just over 1,000 feet.

The board members also considered underground utilities. They pointed out that the weight of the current wind turbines is in excess of 50 tons and having that crash to the ground could affect underground utilities.

They included the `flicker’ affect of the wind towers in the 12 page draft document.

The bylaws include the areas needed in order to put a tower on a property. For the larger turbines, 10 acres or more is needed. There was talk whether the 10 acres should be one parcel or one lot. The definitions of parcel or lot was debated with Mr. Roth noting that the two are interchangeable while Chairman Hayward noted that several lots could be in a parcel. This was critical because, under that definition, the lots could be sold off and the owner left with a tower on a sub sized piece of property.

The bylaw also include smaller wind producers up to 75 feet in height.

The board plans to continue to discuss the bylaw on November 13 with a goal of eventually having a public hearing and bring it to a Town Meeting. Chairman Hayward noted that the goal was to create a document that would be accepted by two thirds of the voters at a Town Meeting.

Chairman Hayward and Mr. Roth were planning to write summaries of the meeting and bring them together for the next meeting.