FALMOUTH – At the opening night of annual town meeting, voters approved a bylaw that dramatically reduces the size of wind turbines allowed in town.
The planning board presented the revised turbine siting bylaw Monday night, about five months after a similar bylaw was rejected at fall’s town meeting.
“You can thank us if you want to, because we’ve spent hundreds of hours on this,” said planning board Chairman Ralph Herbst before the vote.
The planning board began working on the bylaw in response to criticism from abutters of two 1.65-megawatt turbines at the wastewater treatment plant. Neighbors have complained of noise, light flicker and other concerns caused by the turbines.
In addition to banning the construction of turbines with a capacity larger than 250 kilowatts anywhere in town, the bylaw also limits the noise levels audible to neighbors to 6 decibels.
The bylaw failed to garner the two-thirds majority it needed to pass last November, so the planning board changed several aspects of the plan.
The original bylaw would have required at least 51 percent of electricity generated from turbines be used on site. The new bylaw still only allows turbines for “accessory use,” but the planning board will determine that on a case-by-case basis, said planning board Vice Chairwoman Patricia Kerfoot.
“We do not want to see a standalone power plant,” Kerfoot said. “The turbine will provide energy to (a specific use) and can sell the remainder back to the grid.”
Turbines that produce less than 60 kilowatts of electricity, under the new version, are exempt from presenting data from a meteorological expert to show the quality of wind in the area.
When asked what would happen in the event of any technological advances that could allow larger and quieter turbines, Kerfoot said the bylaw could be changed
“We had to make certain recommendations,” she said. “This bylaw is extremely easy to amend.”
The crowded auditorium burst into applause after the measure overwhelmingly passed.
Before the turbine siting vote, a town meeting member took the unusual action of requesting a significant salary boost for Town Clerk Michael Palmer.
Article 5 on the warrant asked members to set Palmer’s annual salary at $72,812. But Precinct 3 member Robert Donahue pointed out that as the town’s only full-time elected employee, he earns about $20,000 less than other department managers.
Recreation Director Helen Kennedy earns about $80,000 and Town Collector Patricia O’Connell earns more than $87,000, Donahue said.
“I didn’t even go into the school department or police department salaries, because those all look like phone numbers,” Donahue said.
Town meeting approved a $13,000 raise, bringing Palmer’s salary to $85,000.
Members also approved a $112.7 million budget for fiscal year 2014.
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