At a glance, its scale is staggering above the Ten Rod Road tree line.
The wind turbine at North Kingstown Green, near Wickford Junction, stands 413-feet tall; its industrial-sized blades can be seen from farmlands off Route 102 in neighboring Exeter, and from the top of the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge. Developer Mark DePasquale also proposed a similar turbine at Stamp Farm off South County Trail, which galvanized community opposition to the project – though ultimately, the town’s Planning Commission rejected the project on a technicality.
Had North Kingstown enacted regulations governing the siting of turbines sooner, it might have avoided the two-year controversy created by the spinning towers – or the Green project’s construction altogether.
Last week, the East Greenwich Planning Board sent a draft proposal to the Town Council that would put a six-month moratorium in place, effectively preventing anyone from proposing wind turbine projects for six months. That would give Planning Director Lisa Bourbonnais – and possibly a subcommittee of local residents – the chance to draft new rules for wind turbines, including considerations of location, maximum height, blade size and noise level, as well their effects on property values and visual impacts.
Without rules on the books, local communities are helpless to defend themselves against large-scale projects that are good for the environment – but offered in the wrong place, like the middle of a residential area. “We don’t want to keep our heads buried in the sand,” Planning Board member Bill Stone said at a May 15 meeting.
A 2007 RIWINDS study by Applied Technology and Management Inc. identified several potential sites in East Greenwich that are more than 11 acres in size – and offer wind speeds over 6 meters per second at 80 meters high, enough for a sizeable turbine. That alone warrants a local moratorium, even though no wind energy projects have been offered to date.
Opponents of North Kingstown’s wind project at times said they’re not opposed to the idea of wind turbines, just not in their backyards. Ultimately, the issue is not about NIMBYism, it’s about where turbines are appropriate and where they aren’t; a site like the Quonset Business Park might be a good location for a regional wind farm, with consistent wind speeds off Narragansett Bay.
The last thing we want to see in East Greenwich is another conflict between a wind turbine developer and residents. In Charlestown, a controversial plan to put two, 410-foot wind turbines off Route 1 has ping-ponged from the town’s Zoning Board to Superior Court and back over the last few years. The town has hired a special prosecutor – at taxpayers’ expense – to fight the project tooth and nail.
In the interest of avoiding unnecessary controversy, we urge the Town Council to enact the moratorium – for as long as six months to one year – so that officials can determine where turbines are appropriate for the community and how tall they should be, among other concerns. That will require input from residents, business owners and developers.
We urge the town to include all potential stakeholders in its review process.
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