September 28, 2013
Rhode Island

Planning Board reviews first draft of proposed wind ordinance

By Stephen Greenwell Jr. Staff Writer | September 28, 2013 |

EAST GREENWICH – A wind ordinance offered by the planning department as a “contextual starting point” would prohibit utility-scale wind facilities – and limit turbines to larger zones of town.

Planning Director Lisa W. Bourbonnais laid out the ordinance at the Planning Board’s Sept. 18 meeting, although she repeatedly stressed that it was an initial effort.

“This is a really, really bare bones first stab,” she said, adding that it was important to get the drafting process started, since the Town Council’s moratorium on turbines in June gave officials just six months to work.

“We have until December to really nail something down,” Bourbonnais added.

As written, the ordinance would permit turbines only on lots with a minimum of two acres in four zoning districts:

• F-2, or farmland with no less than two acres.

• M/LIO, the light industry and office district along Route 2 and South County Trail.

• RHF, the Rocky Hill Fairgrounds.

• MUPD, or mixed-use planned development, which allows for multiple unit types on a single piece of property.

A turbine would require a setback equal to twice the overall blade height, along with a 100-foot setback from any property lines or public rights of way.

The maximum decibel level allowed from a property line while a turbine is operating would be 30 decibels, and the Zoning Board of Review would have the power to impose a stricter standard if needed.

Based on feedback from Planning Board members, Bourbonnais said language about requiring builders to carry insurance for a turbine could be incorporated into any ordinance.

Planning Board Chairman Stephen Brusini said he thought the town should pursue this language, as a way to protect itself if a turbine falls down or has to be shut down.

“At a minimum, they [turbine owners] would have to put up a bond for the decommissioning and removal costs,” he said. “I think the bond would be for the life or duration of the tower.”

Board members Michael Donegan and Bill Stone asked whether they could arrange for a more public forum, or hold a joint meeting with the Town Council while formulating the ordinance.

“If we make a recommendation to the council, I feel like we’re saying, ‘You should vote for this,’” Stone said.

The ordinance has not been scheduled for a first reading or vote, and Bourbonnais said she would bring it back to the planning department for further refinement to incorporate board members’ suggestions.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2.

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