FAIRHAVEN – Town planning officials are bracing themselves for what they say could be a contentious hearing about their proposed draft turbine bylaw.
The bylaw, which would halve the height of turbines allowed in town and quadruple the required distance from residences, would constitute such a broad change from the town’s current bylaw that “We’re going to get complaints from both sides,” Fairhaven Director of Planning and Economic Development William Roth said.
“The folks that want the wind power are going to say it’s not economically feasible to have turbines so small,” Roth said. “Then on the other side you’ll have the anti-wind people saying even a 660-kilowatt turbine will create the litany of effects they say are detrimental.”
Louise Barteau, who opposes the town’s existing turbines, said she would prefer a moratorium be placed on new turbine projects because “There is a large amount of information and this is a poorly understood issue.”
“I am concerned that the Planning Board didn’t take enough time to really observe the things that are happening,” she said, adding that “Even a 660-kilowatt turbine can really change the landscape of a place like West Island.”
Planning Board Chairman Wayne Hayward said he believes the proposed bylaw is “very reasonable.”
He said the state has only given permission for towns to put a moratorium on new turbines for 12 months while they are drafting a turbine bylaw.
“We are in that process now, so adding a moratorium would not make sense,” he said.
He also said the Attorney General’s Office has cautioned towns against writing bylaws that either ban turbines outright or are so restrictive that they ban turbines in practice.
He said the board’s proposed bylaw is one of the strictest turbine bylaws in the state, while the town’s current regulations are among the most lenient.
“The question is which one we want,” he said.
The Planning Board has put in place a set of 14 “procedural rules” to govern Tuesday’s hearing. Those present at the meeting will have to sign up to speak when they arrive at the meeting and speaking time will be limited to five minutes per person. Seating is also limited to the Town Hall banquet room’s capacity of 43 people. A list of the rules is available on their website, as is a comparison chart between the current and proposed turbine bylaws.
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