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The Planning Board weighed into the debate about Kingston’s green energy initiatives Monday night.
The board took positions on proposed Town Meeting zoning changes regulating how much flicker from wind turbines should be allowed to impact neighbors, changing the town’s solar bylaw and temporarily placing a moratorium on new wind turbine projects.
The controversy over the siting and operation of the Independence wind turbine continued to have an affect on discussion of the changes to the solar bylaw.
Planning Board member Michael Ruprecht said he’s not comfortable recommending approval of solar bylaw changes, while Susan Boyer argued that the changes would tighten the bylaw to protect residents.
As present and past Green Energy Committee members, Mark Beaton and Pine duBois have supported the release of a new Request for Proposals for the planned solar project on the town’s capped landfill.
DuBois delivered an impassioned speech about the value of wind energy and briefly butted heads with Planning Board Chairman Tom Bouchard while debating global warming before the debate turned back to the impact of the bylaw changes.
Beaton doesn’t oppose the changes to the bylaw. He said he encourages their support if it means the Board of Selectmen will be willing to issue a new RFP. Selectmen have said they want more public input before issuing an RFP.
Beaton could not answer a question about revenue the solar project would generate.
“We won’t know definitively what the revenue stream will be until we put up the RFP,” he said.
Selectmen are being cautious despite pressure from advocates to act quickly due to reduced incentives for power companies to propose slolar arrays in the state. The zoning changes have already been incorporated into the RFP, Beaton said.
While the bylaw would include new language requiring that abutters who live within 500 feet of a solar project be notified that it’s being proposed, notification would be a courtesy only. A special permit would not be required because as a green community Kingston has by-right zoning.
The solar bylaw changes would also include protections for forest land and limits to minimize glare.
The Planning Board recommended approved by a vote of 3-1-1.
While wind turbine flicker regulations won’t help Leland Road resident Doreen Reilly, who lives nearby and says she suffers from the effects of the Independence, she said no one should have to live with it.
She advocated for zero impact on nearby residents for any new turbine projects to which flicker regulations would apply. Thirty hours a year and daily limits on flicker have also been discussed.
“I’m here for other people because it’s awful to live with,” she said.
The Planning Board has been advised by Town Counsel Jay Talerman that zero hours may not be a legally defensible number. The board recommended a limit of zero hours anyway by a vote of 4-1.
Following this discussion, the board quickly recommended Town Meeting approval of the moratorum on utility scale turbines through April 15, 2016. An advisory group for the state is meeting to consider revising state noise regulations for turbines.
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