August 29, 2013

Plymouth Planning Board members camp out near turbine

By Emily Dravenstadt | Wicked Local Plymouth | Posted Aug 29, 2013 |

So, how loud are they?

That has been the burning question about wind turbines since developers have been banging on Plymouth’s door to erect them all over town. The 75-foot wind turbine erected in the Camelot Industrial Park, by Joe Balboni and several partners, was the first and remains the only industrial-size wind turbine built in Plymouth.

After hearing many concerns from neighborhoods objecting to wind turbines, Planning Board Chairman Paul McAlduff and Vice Chairman Tim Grandy set out to discover just how annoying, if at all, a wind turbine could be.

McAlduff and Grandy camped out Friday night 500 feet from the Balboni turbine in Camelot Park. They erected a tent on Balboni’s land abutting one of the Camelot businesses and logged what they heard.

And the results of their experiment are in.

During the early evening they couldn’t hear the turbine at all, McAlduff said. Though they could hear a little noise from the spinning blades at night, it wasn’t disturbing. What woke them was the sound of the sprinkler system turning on around 2:30 a.m.

“We got hit by four separate sprinkler heads,” McAlduff said. “For over an hour it was pounding on the tent. Thank God the tent was waterproof. Later on, after the sprinkler shut off, you could hear the turbine a little.”

Grandy likened the sound of the turbine to the engine in a jet droning overhead. He also heard a small squeaking sound, but noted that, if he’d been inside a home, he probably wouldn’t have heard anything at all.

The experiment didn’t change McAlduff’s mind about wind turbines. They should probably be at least double the distance from the ground to the tip of blade from any homes, he said, adding that industrial wind turbines should be at least 1,200 feet from residences.

Grandy said wind turbines shouldn’t be located near residences period, due to their potential for causing health problems and adversely impacting property values.

A bylaw that requires McAlduff’s suggested setback would rule out the plan for a 275-foot wind turbine behind Stop & Shop, which is proposed to be built 600 feet from the Algonquin Heights apartment complex and 962 feet from the nearest home on Westerly Road. McAlduff said he was one of the two votes in favor of recommending the Zoning Board of Appeals grant the special permit for this project, but said he was simply standing behind the town’s current wind power bylaws.

“The Energy Committee is proposing changing the bylaw,” he added. “But, for me they’ve made it too restrictive.”

The Planning Board voted, 3-2, last week in favor of the proposed amendment to the town’s zoning bylaws that would create a Wind Facilities Overlay District, which would corral wind turbines greater than 100 feet in height within its borders. The proposed amendment would also prohibit turbines greater than 350 feet in height. But, even if Town Meeting approves the changes this fall, the Stop & Shop wind turbine proposal and any others in the pipeline now would be grandfathered under the town’s current bylaws.

McAlduff said the 100-foot restriction renders it impossible to erect a turbine outside these proposed zones since such a turbine would be too short to generate wind power. That’s why he voted against the proposal, he said.

McAlduff said he supports wind power, but is also in favor of some restrictions.

But Grandy said he supports the Energy Committee’s bylaw amendment.

“I feel it’s a good alternative to what we currently have,” he said. “The one we have is antiquated and doesn’t do a good job of protecting residents of the town of Plymouth.”

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