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Shelburne board reviews wind turbine bylaw

SHELBURNE – Seven months after the town voted to allow small “on-premises” windmills, but banned commercial-scale wind farms from town, the Planning Board met with a consultant for its first review of a draft wind-turbine bylaw that may reach annual town meeting voters this spring.

Although the town is currently under a year-long wind turbine moratorium, the aim is to have criteria in place for small-scale turbines, for home use or for farms, when the moratorium is lifted in July.

The draft “Small Wind Energy System Bylaw” is intended to provide standards for placement, design, construction, monitoring and removal of small wind-energy turbines.

That criteria would be used by the building inspector to issue construction permits, and by either the Planning Board or the Board of Appeals to issue site plan approval and special permits.

The draft identifies a “small wind energy system” as a turbine able to generate up to 60 kilowatts of electricity. A small system could be either ground-mounted or mounted on an existing roof, and the maximum height, from blade tip to ground, would be 160 feet.

Small windmills meeting all the bylaw’s siting and design standards could get permits through a site plan review, which is generally less expensive and less complicated for the applicant, said Tighe & Bond energy consultant Briony Angus.

But, if one or more criteria is not met, the applicant would need to go through a special permit process. In the special permit process, an applicant would have to submit a noise analysis, shadow and flicker analysis and an avian and bat species analysis.

Members of the town’s Wind Advisory Committee raised several questions about the proposal and pointed out potential “trouble spots.”

Among their concerns is that the proposed bylaw doesn’t specify how many small turbines could be placed on a single property. Another concern was about the wording of a special permit application criteria that said: “shadow and flicker analysis should include a list of all off-site inhabited buildings estimated to receive 30 or more shadow/flicker hours per year.” Advisory committee member Michael Parry pointed out that 30 hours of shadow/flicker per year is an industry standard for the maximum amount allowable. Parry said smaller blades spin much quicker than large-scale systems, resulting in more flicker impact.

The board will be working on draft changes and will meet again with Angus to discuss a second revision of the draft bylaw.

The wind turbine moratorium and commercial-scale ban was approved in May, after a plan for creating an eight-turbine wind farm on Mount Massaemet set off community controversy.