SHELBURNE – After two hours of comments about the latest draft of the premises-use wind energy system bylaw during the second part of a public hearing on March 12, the hearing was closed, but not before some controversy.
Planners met again March 19 without completing the draft bylaw. Now they plan to do so at their April 2 meeting so that it can be included on the May 6 annual town meeting warrant, articles for which are due April 7.
At the hearing, Planning Board Chairman Matt Marchese was at first willing to keep the hearing open until Friday, March 14 so that all documentation could be submitted for public record. Marchese called TownCounsel Donna MacNicol, who suggested allowing the meeting to remain open, but after comments from Planning Board members Doug Finn and Cam Stevenson that the board has heard everything that can be said on the subject, the board closed the hearing.
Wind Advisory Committee Chairman Kevin Parsons and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Chairman Joe Palmeri submitted detailed suggested changes in writing and via e-mail.
“You have worked on this a lot, and you are so close to finishing it,” said Selectmen’s Chair Joe Judd to the board. Town resident John Walsh echoed the sentiment.
Parsons suggested throwing away the entire section on site plan review and to roll review conditions under the special permitting procedure instead of having applicants go to the Special Permit Granting Authority, approved at a previous Planning Board meeting to be the ZBA. In his view, applicants would do so only when one or more siting, design or other standard applicants must adhere to was not met.
Palmeri and ZBA member Mike Parry were also against a two-step approval process, but Planning Board member John Wheeler said that he had talked to three ZBA members who were in favor of the two steps. Possibly facing the major change of making the contents of the site plan review and special permitting one procedure. Marchese said the moratorium enacted at town meeting in 2013 could be extended, but MacNicol has said that having a three-year moratorium (this one is coming to the end of a second year) is “pushing it” and Marchese did not want to run that risk.
Earlier comments included Palmeri wanting a clear definition for “wind energy facility” as there exists for “wind energy system.” Parsons noticed there is no setback for rooftop wind energy installations and suggested there should not be any wind systems in the village given the proximity of buildings. Parry suggested that a building inspector should be able to offer an immediate cease-and-desist order for a violation in the case of too much sound or a the presence of a “strobe light-like” flicker effect and resident Jim Gamache wondered about “a grandfather clause” for shutdown complaints if someone moves in or out of a neighborhood.
Wind Advisory Committee Member Ray Hartman said the chart about wind turbine noise complaint predictions from acoustic specialist Stephen Ambrose had been misinterpreted and that the maximum of 33 decibels of sound should be for any wind system site property border or nearest neighbor. His comment prompted Walsh to show the sound level application on his cell phone and to say that the sound level in the village averages 40-60 decibels. Others remarked about how difficult it is for an applicant to erect a wind energy system under the bylaw guidelines.
“If an applicant has to pay a site engineer $10,000 to stamp the plans, no farmer will be able to afford wind power,” said Walsh.
“The question is, as a resident, would I support the bylaw?” Marchese said. “The answer is ‘no.’ We have made it clear that big wind has no place in rural Shelburne. We are running out of a moratorium and need to do something. Is the bylaw too restrictive? Yes, but-we are not going to go for something less so folks become the two-thirds majority-to vote it down and then we have to revert to language from the solar bylaw.”
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