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Latest turbine bylaw draft increases setbacks in Fairhaven

FAIRHAVEN – The Planning Board is one step closer to bringing a new bylaw regarding wind turbines to the public for comment.

The latest draft of the turbine bylaw is stricter than previous versions, this time increasing the setback for an industrial-sized turbine to four times the height of the turbine.

Previous drafts of the bylaw have included provisions to restrict both blade-tip of new turbines to a maximum of 265 feet and turbine wattage to a maximum of 600 kilowatts.

A first draft also had the required distance between turbines and residences at 1.5 times the turbine height.

The latest draft more than doubles that amount, something Planning Board member Francis Budryk said was done to provide “further protection for the town from the health effects, which we don’t really have all the information about at this time.”

“Distance is one of the precautions that we can take as the Planning Board to make sure that the people of this town are protected,” he said.

Fairhaven’s two existing turbines at the wastewater 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 with the town’s current ordinances, written in 2004.

Budryk said he believed that after the turbines were constructed residents were “stunned” by the size of the towers and how close they were to homes.

“People were at each other’s throats about these things because we only realized the size after they were up,” he said. “We are trying to prevent that from happening again. A lot of serious thought is going into this.”

The latest draft of the bylaw also gives the Planning Board discretion to make exceptions for turbines producing more than 600 kilowatts and closer to residences than four times blade height.

The draft will next have to go before the Board of Selectmen for review. After they have approved it, it will be open to public comment before going before Town Meeting in May.