March 29, 2013
New Hampshire

Zoning board upholds decisions on Jericho wind farm but modifies setback

Written by Barbara Tetreault | The Berlin Daily Sun | 28 March 2013 |

BERLIN – The Zoning Board of Adjustment Wednesday night upheld earlier planning and zoning board decisions allowing Jericho Power to install three 500-foot wind turbines on Jericho Mountain. But the board did modify the Jan. 8 planning board decision to require the wind turbines to set back at least 200 feet from the perimeter of the property.

Abutter Allen Bouthillier filed a motion asking the zoning board to reconsider its Jan 9 decision. He also appealed the Jan. 8 planning board decision. The two boards both voted in January to amend prior approvals for the project.

In 2009, Jericho Mountain Wind Company, owned by developer David Brooks, received site plan approval from the planning board to construct four wind turbines no higher than 400 feet. The zoning board, at that time, approved both a special exception and a variance for four 400-foot turbines and a fifth turbine at 500 feet.

In June 2012, Jericho Power LLC took over the project. This January, Jericho Power asked the planning board to amend its site plan to allow it to install three 500-foot turbines. The company also asked the zoning board to amend its variance to allow for three 500-foot turbines. Both amendments were approved.

Through his attorney Sandra Cabrera of Waystack Frizzell, Bouthillier argued the increased number of higher turbines with wider wingspan on the abutting property will adversely affect his ability to develop a wind farm on his 850-acre parcel. The motion noted the 100-foot setback required in the planning board approval would put the turbines “perilously close” to Bouthillier’s property line, creating a risk they could fall on his property.

Cabrera presented a letter from wind expert Gregory Poulos stating the 100-foot setback could result in the blades overhanging 50 to 100 feet on Bouthillier’s property. Poulos said the wake effects from the Jericho Power wind farm “could cause an approximately 10-20 percent loss of energy production for nearby turbines”.

Taking up the request for reconsideration of the zoning decision first, Chairman Dana Hoyt said the issue before the board is whether it erred in approving the amendment.

Member Richard Tremaine said he did not believe the board erred. He said the request was only to change the number and height of the turbines. He said the original variance, which he noted Bouthillier did not appeal, established the 100-foot setback. Tremaine noted the original variance also allowed for one 500-foot turbine.

Hoyt said the record showed the board did discuss the potential for the turbines to fall on Bouthillier’s property and the issue of icing.

The zoning board voted unanimously not to reconsider its action amending the original variance.

The board spent more time on the appeal of the planning board decision. Speaking to the board directly, Bouthillier noted the minutes of the June 2, 2009 planning board meeting state that he confirmed the setbacks would be 120 feet. He said a map presented by Brooks at the meeting showed the setbacks at 400 feet.

Bouthillier said at 500 feet, the turbines will be considerable taller than the Burgess BioPower boiler which he said is 314 feet high. He said with a 100-foot setback, part of the blade will infringe on his property.

“I’m not against this. I’m trying to protect my property,” Bouthillier said.

City Attorney Chris Boldt asked if there was a written agreement between the two parties on record. Cabrera said there was not although the parties had shared plans.

Hoyt said the 2009 planning board decision listed a 100-foot setback as a condition. That decision was not appealed. He said the board cannot now consider if 100 feet is too close.

Zoning Board Member Andre Caron noted that a Feb. 22 letter from Jericho Power stated its closest turbine will be over 200 feet from the property line. Boldt said the zoning board could modify the planning board’s order. Caron moved the zoning board find the planning board did not err in approving the amendment but modify the conditions to require a 200-foot setback. The motion passed unanimously.

The total capacity of the proposed Jericho Power project has been placed at between 4.95 to 8.55 megawatts. Jericho Power President Gordon Deane has said he hopes to get construction underway this summer. He said to quality for a federal Production Tax Credit substantial construction must take place in 2013.

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