SHELBURNE – It’s been two years since about 300 residents filled Memorial Hall Auditorium to deliberate windmill zoning at a time when the town was facing a proposal for a large-scale wind farm. Back then, voters banned commercial-scale wind farms from town by a 195-57 vote and voted 229-46 in favor of a moratorium on “on-premises” wind turbines for generating power for farms, homes and businesses.
Now the town Planning Board has drafted a bylaw that will be presented at annual town meeting at 7 p.m. on May 7, for “on premises” wind turbines. The new bylaw provides standards for placement, design, construction, monitoring and removal of wind energy systems. If approved, it would replace the two-year moratorium on smaller wind turbines.
Copies of the bylaw are available in Memorial Hall or may be downloaded by the Planning Board section of the town website:
The new bylaw would require premise-use wind energy systems to get a building permit and a special permit from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The plan must meet state and federal standards and unless it is an “off the grid” electricity generator, it cannot be installed until the ZBA has evidence that the utility company it is to be connected to has been notified.
The height cannot exceed 120 feet above ground level, and rooftop turbines must comply with existing building codes. Ground-mounted systems must have setbacks of at least 1.5 times the total height of the wind turbine from property lines, overhead utility lines and public roads or rights of way. Also, the distance between the turbine and any outside inhabited structure must be at least three times greater than the turbine height.
The turbine should not impact ambient noise levels to exceed 33 decibels. In very quiet areas, of 28dB or less, the turbine should not increase noise levels above 5dB above the noise level at the property boundary. Also, it should be sited in a way that doesn’t result in any shadow flicker on neighboring, occupied buildings.
The turbine should be designed to prevent unauthorized access, and land clearing should be limited to the amount needed for construction, operation and maintenance of the turbine. If a turbine fails to operate for at least a year, it will be considered “abandoned” and must be removed. The owner will have 30 days to prove it’s not abandoned or the town will have the authority to enter the property and remove the system at the owner’s expense.
If there are any questions of noncompliance with the special permit, the building inspector has the authority to issue a cease-and-desist order, requiring the project owner to comply or submit a mitigation plan.
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