WELLFLEET – The Massachusetts Audubon Society intends to withdraw its applications from the zoning board to build a 120-foot windmill at its Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary but will likely turn to the Planning Board for help.
The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to hold a public hearing today on Mass Audubon’s application for two zoning variances for the windmill, one for height and one for diameter of the blades. But the nonprofit conservation and preservation organization intends for the application, initially filed in June, to be withdrawn without prejudice, sanctuary Director Robert Prescott said Wednesday.
The ZBA typically accepts this type of withdrawal with a motion by a board member and then an affirmative vote, board secretary Christine Bates said Wednesday. Plans withdrawn in this manner can be resubmitted at a later date.
A related application for a special permit for the proposed windmill is to be withdrawn as well, according to Mass Audubon attorney Michael Ford in his Oct. 15 letter to the town.
Mass Audubon will continue to pursue construction of the windmill, Prescott said. The sanctuary – at 291 Route 6 in South Wellfleet – most likely will propose that the Planning Board consider changes to the town zoning bylaw for wind turbines to allow for larger ones, if townspeople want them, he said.
Wellfleet’s zoning bylaw currently limits the height of a windmill to 65 feet, for example.
The Planning Board would provide the best forum to discuss “small wind” ventures and potentially change the bylaw to benefit residents who might want a similar-sized turbine on their property, he said.
At the same time, Mass Audubon is continuing to research the implications of a windmill on the sanctuary property.
“We think it’s a viable option for the Outer Cape,” Prescott said, noting how other towns in the eastern section of the Cape allow windmills. “People are catching onto this.”
The proposed windmill falls within the bylaw category of small or micro turbines for farmers, small businesses and community projects, according to Mass Audubon paperwork filed in Town Hall.
The turbine would allow the sanctuary to increase its energy conservation and use of renewable energy, according to the paperwork.
Wind turbine opponent Lilli-Ann Green of Wellfleet welcomed the news Wednesday that Mass Audubon wants to withdraw its zoning applications. Green contends that Mass Audubon’s mission to protect wildlife, including rare birds and bats, directly contradicts the idea of erecting a wind turbine, which she said is a technology that kills those creatures.
The proposed turbine is taller than what is allowed for structures in Wellfleet, she said, and the machine could negatively affect the health of neighbors, the price of real estate and tourism.
“I’m a very concerned citizen,” Green said. She is a member of the town Energy Committee but said she was speaking only as an individual.
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